It did not take uncanny prediction skills for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to anticipate what the reaction will be if he does not re-sign defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
“I’d get killed,” Gettleman said.
Hold the abuse … for now.
The Giants have a decision to make with Williams, as they are not close to any contract agreement, The Post confirmed. In order to keep Williams off the open market when the NFL free agency negotiating period begins next Monday, the Giants can place the franchise or transition tag on Williams. That would virtually ensure no other team signs him (if the franchise tag is used) or at the very least the Giants have the chance to match any offer (if the transition tag is applied).
If the Giants tag Williams, it could serve as a placeholder while they continue to work toward a long-term deal. Or, he could play on the tag for the 2020 season, unless he balks at this scenario and does not sign the tag, creating a standoff that could get ugly.
Gettleman, in a rare Giants trade with the Jets on Oct. 28, parted with a 2020 third-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-or-fifth-round 2021 pick in exchange for the 25-year old Williams, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Williams was a highly durable and dependable player for the Jets but never lived up to his lofty draft status.
Gettleman, always interested in strengthening the lines, figured it was worth the gamble to trade for Williams, believing getting him in the building and on the field would enhance his chances to re-sign him. Williams probably will not be in great demand around the league, but he is young and healthy and highly productive as a run defender and as an interior lineman who can push the pocket. Just do not expect him to be a finisher and provide many sacks. He has 17.5 sacks in 79 career games but in 2019 had just one-half sack in eight games with the Giants after getting no sacks in his first seven games with the Jets.
There is some debate as to what position Williams will be tagged under. He prefers to be listed as a defensive end, as the franchise tag (estimated at $17.9 million) and transition tag ($15.3 million) is higher than at defensive tackle ($16.2 million and $13.2 million, respectively). Williams lines up in a defensive end spot in a 3-4 base defense and inside at defensive tackle in a 4-3 base defense. He is considered an interior linemen, though, and that should equate to a defensive tackle designation.
The Giants have until Thursday to apply a tag on Williams. If they do not, he hits the open market. If the Giants tag Williams and eventually work out a long-term deal with him, the conditional 2021 draft pick sent to the Jets is a fifth-round selection. So, it behooves the Giants to wait, as re-signing Williams this week means they lose a fourth-round pick in 2021.
NFL Network first reported the Giants and Williams are not close to a deal at this point.
It is difficult to consider Williams agreeing to any long-term deal that is not for at least $10 million a year and most likely he is seeking at least $12 million annually. The Giants have Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson as young interior defensive linemen, but Gettleman viewed Williams as an upgrade, or else he would not have given up two draft picks for what essentially was a half-season tryout. Not securing Williams to a fair deal, for 2020 at the very least, would be a disaster for Gettleman, unless he comes up with some free-agent and draft-day magic that allows Giants fans from belaboring the entire Leonard Williams episode.