Giants to franchise tag Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams Giants
Giants defensive end Leonard Williams.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are expected to franchise tag defensive lineman, Leonard Williams, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Tuesday morning. 

Expectations are that this move is just a placeholder for a long-term deal, which Rapoport notes both sides are continuing to work toward. The NFL’s franchise-tag deadline was 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

In order to exercise the franchise tag, the Giants have to shed what’s believed to be around $10 million in cap space to fit his price, which will come in at around $19.35 million because this is his second year getting the franchise tag.

The Giants have until July 15 to work out a new contract that would eliminate the franchise tag, but have until just March 17 — the start of the new league year — to clear the necessary space to fit Williams’ numbers.

Williams rewarded the Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman for showing faith in him last year with that franchise tag by putting together a career season, posting 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 30 quarterback hits in 16 games. 

His resurgence coincided with a Giants defense that found its historically formidable form under new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, ranking ninth overall in points against.

It was more sacks than the 26-year-old had over the last three years combined. Drafted sixth overall by the cross-stadium-rival Jets in 2015, Williams posted just 17 sacks in his first four full seasons with Gang Green. 

After he didn’t post a sack in his first seven games of the 2019 season, the Jets shipped him to the Giants for a 2020 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 fifth-round draft pick — a price that is still deemed by some as a sizable one. 

Williams has made it known that he wants to remain with the Giants and the mutual interest between player and organization have only been confirmed by the franchise tag and Rapoport’s report of the two sides continuing to work toward a deal.

“I’ve been enjoying my time here so far. I love the guys on this team,” Williams said in December. “I love playing with these guys. I’ve built a relationship with a lot of the players on this team. I love the direction of where it’s going with this new coaching staff. I’ve been proud to be a Giant for however long it’s been. If it ends this year, then it ends this year. But either way, I’ve been happy to wear these colors and play this season. It’s been fun being a part of this defense and this team.”