The Giants will exercise the franchise tag on defensive lineman Leonard Williams on Monday morning, per multiple reports.
It was the last day NFL teams could use the franchise tag on pending free agents.
The move ensures Williams remains with the Giants for at least a full season after general manager Dave Gettleman gave up a significant haul to the Jets for his services last year.
On NFL trade deadline day, the Giants sent a 2020 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 fifth-round draft pick to the Jets for Williams in an attempt to bolster their pass rush.
While Williams is returning to the Giants, that conditional fifth-round pick the Jets received does not become a fourth-rounder because a long-term deal was not agreed upon — at least for now.
The franchise tag carries a $16.1 million cap hit for the Giants, a deal that is just not worth that kind of money after the season he had in 2019. He recorded just a half-sack and 26 combined tackles in eight games for the Giants. He didn’t record any quarterback takedowns with the Jets in seven games to start the year.
It was obviously a career-worst campaign for the sixth-overall pick in the 2015 draft after putting up an inconsistent 17 sacks over his first four NFL seasons.
Exercising the franchise tag gives the Giants more time to re-negotiate a long-term deal with Williams to secure him in blue — a plan Gettleman didn’t veil when they acquired him for such a hefty price.
He’s shown flashes of being a menace along the defensive line with five sacks in 2018 and seven two years before that, but the matter of consistency despite his reliability — he’s played in 79 of 80 games since being drafted — has hampered his status as a legitimate pass rusher at the NFL level.
Gettleman and the Giants will have to do plenty of work to enhance the defensive line — one of the team’s many shortcomings — this offseason.
With approximately $77 million available before the Williams franchise tag, the Giants are expected to be major players on the free-agent market to upgrade their side.
But the franchise-tag period has seen the likes of Yannick Ngakoue, Shaq Barrett, Bud Dupree, and Chris Jones secured for 2020 with their current teams.