NY Giants must prioritize signing Leonard Williams to a long-term contract

The NY Giants’ plan from the moment they acquired Leonard Williams in 2019 was to use the franchise tag on the defensive lineman in 2020, so long as he lived up to expectations following a trade with the Jets, but using the tag a second time in 2021 is not something the organization should even consider.

With less than three weeks before the new NFL league year is set to begin and free agency to open, the Giants have just under $1 million in spending flexibility under the current salary cap floor of $180 million. While that number could potentially rise if the NFL and NFLPA borrow money from future years in the aftermath of a new TV deal with Disney, CBS, FOX, and possibly Amazon, that’s not something the Giants can count on at this moment.

Williams, last season, was the NY Giants’ most dominant pass-rusher, producing a team-high 11.5 sacks, playing the best football of his career under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and defensive line coach Sean Spencer.

The Giants now have 16 days to come to a long-term agreement before every other team gets their chance should he become an unrestricted free agent. Monday, the organization was given even more motivation to come to terms on a long-term pact, after ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Williams’ grievance from last season with NFLPA remains unresolved, and he is seeking being tagged as a defensive end rather than a defensive tackle.

If Williams is tagged for a second time, he would carry a $19.4 million cap hit as a defensive tackle or a $21.4 million cap hit this season if he wins his grievance and is tagged as an end.

That’s a price the NY Giants simply can’t afford. They also can’t afford to lose Williams.

Deadlines bring action, and this latest development should give the NY Giants even more motivation to find a way to get a deal done with a player they traded a third and fifth-round draft choice to acquire and who became a cornerstone along the defensive line.

Matt Lombardo is the site expert for GMenHQ, and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday for FanSided. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL.