The Giants will free up some cap space and lock down one of their top players. Given the franchise tag for the second straight year, Leonard Williams reached an agreement on an extension Tuesday.
Williams will sign a three-year, $63MM accord to stay with the Giants, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Dalvin Tomlinson departed for Minnesota, the Giants will retain their top defensive line playmaker. Williams did incredibly well on this $21MM-per-year deal; $45MM of the pact is fully guaranteed, per Rapoport.
GM Dave Gettleman confused most by acquiring Williams at the 2019 trade deadline, and the former Jets first-round pick did not impress in his first half-season as a Giant. After a sackless first eight games, however, Williams broke through after being tagged last year. The former top-10 draftee produced his best season, registering 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits.
This deal both locks Williams into a price he was not especially close to as a Jet and will allow him a chance to approach free agency again while in his prime. The Giants and Williams were not close on a deal last year, and he played the season at the $16.1MM defensive tackle tag price. Going into last year’s franchise tag deadline, the Giants were not ready to give Williams an extension that averaged what that tag paid. A year later, the 26-year-old defender acquired tremendous leverage and used it to cash in.
Although the Giants did a few Eli Manning deals and constructed Odell Beckham Jr.‘s current contract, Joel Corry of CBS Sports notes this is the most fully guaranteed money they have handed out (Twitter link). Tuesday’s agreement will vault Williams onto the top tier of D-line contracts. After his breakthrough Giants contract year, the USC alum matches DeForest Buckner as the second-highest-paid interior defender. Only Aaron Donald ($22.5MM AAV) comes in above Williams now. And Williams’ $45MM full guarantee surpasses Buckner’s mark.
The Giants entered the tampering period with Williams tethered to a $19.4MM tag, so this should free up some much-needed cap space for the team to pursue free agents. Despite losing Tomlinson, the Giants have a talented defensive line core still in place. Both Dexter Lawrence and B.J. Hill remain on their rookie deals, with Austin Johnson agreeing to return on a low-cost accord Monday.
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