Why NY Giants signed Leonard Williams over Dalvin Tomlinson

Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants celebrates with Dalvin Tomlinson (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants celebrates with Dalvin Tomlinson (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

NY Giants GM Dave Gettleman admits there is regret over how Dalvin Tomlinson’s situation was handled, explains why Leonard Williams was a priority

The NY Giants signed defensive end Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, after initially using the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive offseason, in a decision that GM Dave Gettleman admits wasn’t an easy one.

“Dalvin is a wonderful young man and he was a captain, so obviously there’s regret,” Gettleman said Tuesday.

As a result of Williams and the NY Giants agreeing to terms on a new three-year deal worth $63 million with up to $45 million guaranteed, burgeoning defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson wound up walking via free agency, signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

“At the end of the day, you only have so much money and you have to make decisions,” Gettleman said. “That’s just the way it is. We’ll miss Dalvin, but fortunately he got what he wanted and Minnesota is a fine organization.”

It’s easy to see why Gettleman might regret how Tomlinson’s situation was handled, both because his contract was for an affordable $21 million over two seasons, and because multiple reports suggest the NY Giants received trade overtures for Tomlinson last fall. Likewise, perhaps had Gettleman re-upped Tomlinson to an extension last offseason, or during the season, the defensive line might have been able to have been kept intact.

An argument can be made that keeping Williams and Tomlinson intact along a defensive line that also includes former first-round pick Dexter Lawrence might have been a more prudent offseason strategy, it’s hard to knock the NY Giants for taking the route they did when free agency included the signings of wide receivers Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

But, what separated Williams from Tomlinson, making him a top organizational priority to re-sign before the market officially opened back in March?

"“Maybe 11.5 sacks, maybe that was part of it,” Gettleman said. “He’s very versatile. He’s a legitimate inside-pass rusher, and he really blossomed. He loves being here, and we love having him. That was part of the decision.”"

Williams certainly seemed to find his footing and play the best football of his career in his first year under Giants defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Sean Spencer, but the closest he came previously to double-digit sacks was when he produced seven in 2016.

Meanwhile, Tomlinson produced four sacks and 28 pressures last season, while generating a 75.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and a 74.6 overall mark.

Gettleman traded a pair of draft picks to the Jets to acquire Williams prior to the 2019 NFL trade deadline, which likely played a role in the organization prioritizing keeping him long-term, as well.

How Williams performs in 2021, without Tomlinson along the same line, and beyond, will be telling on just how much Gettleman and the Giants wind up regretting not doing more to keep the pair of dominant defensive linemen together.

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