Giants Restructure DL Leonard Williams’ Contract

New Giants GM Joe Schoen said he wanted to avoid cutting into future salary cap space, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post notes, but the team went through with a Leonard Williams restructure to comply with the 2022 cap.

The team redid the veteran defensive lineman’s deal, according to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan (on Twitter). This move created $11.92MM in 2022 cap space, Field Yates of adds (via Twitter). It also created a monster Williams 2023 cap number and pushed money to 2024, despite the former top-10 pick only being signed through next season.

By shifting $17.88MM of Williams’ 2022 base salary into a signing bonus, the Giants spread out his cap hit through 2024. A void year became necessary to do this. As a result, Williams is on New York’s 2023 cap at $32.26MM. That new number is currently slated to rank 12th in the NFL next year. Nine of the 11 players slated to have larger cap hits than Williams next year are quarterbacks. Williams’ previous 2022 cap hit ($27.3MM) had ranked fourth among defenders. It has since dropped to $15.4MM, but it comes with a future cost.

Williams, 28, maximized his value by signing a three-year, $63MM extension in March 2021, shortly after being franchise-tagged for the second time. Despite being well under .500 at the 2019 trade deadline, the Giants acquired the former Jets top-10 pick in exchange for two draft choices. They franchise-tagged Williams in 2020, and the USC product came through with his best season — an 11.5-sack year with 30 quarterback hits. In 2021, Williams recorded 6.5 sacks with 14 QB hits.

Prior to this restructure, the Giants could have cut Williams in 2023 and saved $18MM. Now, even with a post-June 1 cut designation, there would be $14MM in dead money that came with a Williams release. If the Giants do not extend Williams before the start of the 2024 league year, they would still be hit with $5.96MM in dead money thanks to the void year.

This is not the first major cap-related adjustment the Giants have made this year. Most notably, they held onto James Bradberry for several weeks before finally cutting him. Bradberry soon signed with the Eagles. Big Blue had listened on Saquon Barkley trade inquiries ahead of the Bradberry decision. Come 2023, the Giants will be in a better cap situation compared to the one Schoen inherited. The team will hold more than $49MM in cap space, though that figure (currently fifth in the NFL) will change as the team makes additional moves ahead of the ’23 league year.

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