Leonard Williams

Jets Eyeing 2019 Leonard Williams Extension

Three defenders from the 2014 draft class remain without second contracts, ones that are expected to set the market for future high-profile re-up candidates. Leonard Williams looms as of those who may have an easier time once Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney agree to deals.

Williams resides as the Jets’ cornerstone defensive player, and the team is planning to reward him with an extension. The Jets want to extend their 2015 first-round pick in 2019, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports.

The Jets picked up Williams’ $14.2MM fifth-year option in May and have him under contract through the 2019 season, so this timeline makes sense.

The respective outcomes of the Rams’, Raiders’ and Texans’ respective negotiations with their 2014 first-round stars could set up Williams for a major payday next year. Williams isn’t too worried about an imminent extension, which is logical since the landscape could look better for him once Donald, Mack and Clowney are locked into second contracts.

Williams also resides on a team that stands to possess far more cap space than any of the franchises on the brink of authorizing big defensive contracts. New York is projected to hold a league-high $87MM-plus in cap space next year and will likely have a clearer picture of what it will take to retain its top defensive lineman long-term after potential late-summer deals are completed this year.

Not that it will necessarily require a contract that eclipses $20MM per year to extend Williams, but considering the cap’s annual climb of approximately $10MM, that might not be an unreasonable proposition for a team flush in cap room and low on long-term cogs who are extension-eligible.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets In “No Rush” To Extend DT Leonard Williams

The Jets are in “no rush” to extend the contract of defensive tackle Leonard Williams, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.

Because he is a former first-round pick, Williams is under Jets control through the 2019 campaign thanks to his fifth-year option. Williams, 23, is scheduled to earn nearly $3MM in base salary for the upcoming season before seeing his pay balloon to $14.2MM in 2019. Given his contract structure, Williams isn’t an immediate priority for New York, and Williams has indicated he’s not concerned about his next deal.

However, Williams does seem to have some sort of monetary goal in mind. When asked if he wants to become the league’s highest-paid defensive lineman, Williams hedged with his answer. “It’s one of my goals to be one of the best players, one of the best defensive linemen,” Williams said, per Cimini. “When that comes, then I think the money comes with it.”

Williams has completed three NFL seasons, meaning he is now eligible for an extension. The former sixth overall selection, Williams earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2016 and graded as the No. 21 interior defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. He’s appeared in all 48 possible games during his career, and last season posted two sacks and 22 tackles in 16 starts.

Thus far, no member of the 2015 draft class has inked an extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Pryor, Dolphins

New Jets wide receiver Terrelle Pryor recently underwent a scope on his knee, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Per head coach Todd Bowles, it will be “close” as to whether Pryor will be available for training camp, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. While reports on Pryor seem positive, any injury is worth noting for the ex-Browns and Redskins wideout. Pryor underwent ankle surgery last November and missed the remainder of what was already a disappointing campaign in Washington, and subsequently dealt with another, unrelated ankle issue last month. If Pryor is forced to miss any time, fellow receivers Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart, or Andre Roberts could conceivably see more action.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Defensive tackle Leonard Williams is under the Jets‘ control through the 2019 campaign thanks to his fifth-year option, and the former first-round pick isn’t concerned about his next contract, as Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. “The contract’s going to come,” Williams said. “There’s no pressure for it. I’m not like thirsty for it or anything like that. I just want to keep working hard and keep focusing on year by year and just making myself the best possible and helping my team be the best possible, and the money will come.” Williams, who will earn a combined total of roughly $17MM over the next two years, graded as the NFL’s No. 21 interior defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. He’s eligible for an extension now, but New York hasn’t made any known contractual overtures.
  • A number of Jets players — including rookie tight end Chris Herndon, linebacker Dylan Donahue, and perhaps most infamously, wide receiver Robby Anderson — have been in legal hot water in recent months, but Bowles doesn’t think the club’s string of arrests is much of an issue. “It’s not a Jets problem or a league problem. It’s a nationwide problem,” Bowles said, as Costello writes in a separate piece. “We deal with them on a daily basis as they come. We talk about [how] we’re against them. You know you’re against certain things. Things happen in your 20s and we treat them on an individual basis and you move by.” As Costello notes, the majority of the Jets’ legal troubles have stopped following initial arrests, as most charges in these cases have been reduced or dropped.
  • The Dolphins recently picked up $17MM in salary cap space when Ndamukong Suh‘s contract officially came off the books on June 1, and while much of that money will be used to sign the rest of the club’s draft class, or put away for roster emergencies, Miami could utilize some of that cash on a cornerback upgrade, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald opines. Although the Dolphins recently locked up slot corner Bobby McCain on a four-year extension, they could still use another outside defensive back to play opposite Xavien Howard. As Salguero notes, Adam Jones, Jeremy Lane, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are among the veteran defenders still available, as are Bashaud Breeland, Delvin Breaux, and Kayvon Webster.

Jets Pick Up Leonard Williams’ Fifth-Year Option

It’s official. The New York Jets announced this morning (via Twitter) that they’ve picked up defensive lineman Leonard Williams‘ fifth-year option. We heard earlier this month that the organization would pick up the option before the May 3rd deadline.

Williams was already under contract for an affordable $2.975MM in 2018, but as our own Zach Links pointed out, it’s uncertain what kind of money he’ll be making in 2019. After all, the 23-year-old has spent time at defensive end and defensive tackle, so he could realistically be listed at either position.

The fifth-year option for former top-10 picks is similar to the transition tag, so Williams’ 2019 salary will be based on the top-10 salaries at his respective position. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com believes that Williams’ salary could come in around $14.2MM. Regardless, his listed 2019 salary might soon be irrelevant, as the two sides could still agree to a long-term extension.

The former first-rounder out of USC hasn’t missed a game since entering the league in 2015. After compiling seven sacks en route to a Pro Bowl birth in 2016, Williams’ numbers took a bit of a hit in 2017. The lineman ultimately finished the campaign with 47 tackles and two sacks in 16 games, both career-lows. However, Williams still graded out as a top-25 defensive tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets To Pick Up Leonard Williams’ Option

No surprise here. The Jets will pick up Leonard Williams‘ fifth-year option before the May 3 deadline, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News

Williams was already under contract for the 2018 season at a reasonable $2.975MM salary. It’s not 100% clear what his 2019 salary will be since he has spent time at both defensive tackle and defensive end.

Fifth-year option salaries for top ten picks are dictated by the average of the top ten players in the NFL at the position, which is equivalent to the transition tag. This year, the transition tag the transition tag for defensive ends was set at $14.2MM. For defensive tackles, it was $11.4MM.

Williams, who will turn 24 this summer, had just two sacks last season, but that was due largely to playing snaps on the interior line. Pro Football Focus placed Williams as the No. 21 ranked defensive tackle in the NFL last season with a solid 84.8 overall score. He has graded out as a top 20 player at his position in each of his three NFL seasons, per PFF, and earned Pro Bowl honors for his work in 2016. It’s conceivable that Williams would have been in line for another Pro Bowl nod in 2017 had he not suffered a wrist injury early in the season. The tender wrist clearly affected his performance, though he did not miss a single game.

The Jets and Williams can still hammer out a long-term extension between now and 2019, which seems likely to happen. The Jets value Williams and they have the cap flexibility to lock him down for years to come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Clears Jets’ Lee, Williams

The NFL has cleared a pair of former Jets first-round picks. Neither linebacker Darron Lee nor defensive lineman Leonard Williams will face league punishment stemming from their an altercation at the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island in June. Darron Lee (vertical)

[RELATED: Latest On Hackenberg, Petty, Kickers]

Following a review, we concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a violation of the personal conduct policy,” an NFL spokesman said in a statement.

Reportedly, Williams pushed Lee away as he was arguing with a woman who may have been his girlfriend. One eyewitness said that Lee’s argument with the woman turned physical, but the league found no proof to substantiate that claim. Williams, it seemed, was simply trying to break things up. Neither player was arrested.

Lee, a 2016 first-round pick, appeared in 13 games (nine starts) with the Jets last season, compiling 73 tackles and one sack. Williams, a first round choice in 2015, had seven sacks and 68 total tackles last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: L. Williams, Giants, Zumwalt

Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was one of the more impressive rookies in the league in 2015, and with a full professional season under his belt, he says he is ready to take his game to the next level. Said Williams, “I know the playbook now, so I don’t have to think as much when I’m out there, I can just play. It’s less pressure now that I’m not a rookie anymore, and I don’t have to have that tag or label on me. It’s just been more comfortable overall this year” (article via Kaylee Pofahl of The New York Post).

After racking up 63 tackles and three sacks last season, Williams indicated that he has put a special emphasis on his pass rush during offseason workouts in an effort to become a more complete player. As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com writes, Williams and defensive line cohort Sheldon Richardson are two big reasons why New York has not made more of an effort to sign Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term deal.

Now let’s take a look at some more links from around the league:

  • Mark Herzlich, despite being a former undrafted free agent who is neither a star nor a starter, has defied the odds and has played five seasons in the NFL, all with the Giants, with season number six right around the corner. He is by all accounts a good person whose battle with cancer has been inspirational and, thus far, successful, but his on-field contributions have been fairly limited. However, even though one of Herzlich’s biggest fans in former head coach Tom Coughlin is gone, he still has plenty of supporters, including team president and co-owner John Mara. As Paul Schwartz of The New York Post writes, Herzlich has simply made himself exceedingly popular both on and off the field, and therefore difficult to cut. There is something to be said for positive influences in a locker room, and Herzlich’s contributions in that regard have allowed him to carve out a surprising NFL career.
  • Giants wide receiver Roger Lewis, who signed with the club as a UDFA this year, was charged with two counts of raping a girl, with whom he had prior sexual relations, when he was 18. He ultimately was acquitted of one of the charges and pleaded down another for an admission he lied to police during the investigation, and he now has the opportunity to live out his NFL dream, despite not hearing his name called on draft weekend. He has draft-worthy ability, but teams likely shied away from him as a result of the not-too-distant criminal charges, as Matt Schneldman of The New York Post writes. As a UDFA on a team loaded with wide receiver talent, Lewis has a major uphill battle to make Big Blue’s roster, but at this point he is playing with house money and is simply grateful for the chance to play and to further remove himself from his troubled past. He has shown flashes in offseason workouts and could get a chance with another club if he is unable to land a spot with the Giants.
  • Jordan Zumwalt, the Steelers‘ sixth-round pick in 2014, spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons on injured reserve with a hip injury, and the hip surgery that ended his 2015 campaign before it started took over five hours to complete and included a brutal recovery/rehabilitation period. Now hopefully healthy, Zumwalt has been working exclusively at inside linebacker in offseason workouts, as Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, and he still has a chance to make the club in that role as the Steelers seek to replace Sean Spence and Terence Garvin. The odds, however, remain stacked against him.
  • Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune looks at five veteran Buccaneers who could be on the roster bubble, a list headlined by tight end Brandon Myers and right tackle Gosder Cherilus.

Front Office Notes: Jets, Giants, Titans, Lions

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan filled his season-ending press conference with “generalities and overall nothingness,” writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Still, the executive did elaborate on several topics, including free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“We’d like very much to get him back… We’ll see how this thing works out.”

Bryce [Petty] has made a lot of progress. We’re kind of excited to have another offseason with him… With Geno [Smith], he’s under contract. We like the progress he’s made.”

Maccagnan also noted that “it’s not impossible” to keep all of their top defensive linemen, including Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Leonard Williams.

Let’s check out some more notes from the league’s front offices…

  • Giants general manager Jerry Reese understands that it’s his job to improve the roster, and he said he puts it on himself if the team doesn’t perform well. “At the end of the day, it’s my responsibility,” he said (via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News). “If somebody doesn’t get it right, if somebody doesn’t pan out, it’s the GM’s responsibility.”
  • While candidates have been interviewing for the Titans head coach vacancy, ownership has made it clear that they have no desire to sell the team, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
  • The Lions have fired senior personnel executive Scott McEwen, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). The former Director of College Scouting was the longest tenured scout in the organization.
  • According to Schefter (on Twitter), the Lions have hired Kyle O’Brien as their Director of Player Personnel.

AFC East Notes: Campbell, Williams, McDaniels, Incognito

Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell isn’t likely going to continue on as the team’s coach past this season, but Chris Perkins of the Miami Sun-Sentinel believes he wins three of his final four games, or even runs the table, that could give him a good shot to be hired full time by owner Stephen Ross.

Let’s take a quick look at the rest of the AFC East, with more notes on the Jets, Patriots and Bills:

  • The Jets were excited to draft Leonard Williams sixth overall because they felt they had gotten lucky to select the best player in the draft when he should have been taken much earlier. Williams however was upset because he thought he should have went first, or at least have been the first defensive player taken, and instead fell to the Jets where he wouldn’t have a chance to play behind Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, writes Zach Braziller of the New York Post. It turned out to be the best thing, as Williams has thrived with the Jets without having the pressure to be a superstar right out of the gate as a rookie.
  • It isn’t hard to remember Josh McDaniels’ last turn as a head coach, where he ran Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall out of town while hitching his wagon to Tim Tebow in the first round. However, he has proven himself again in New England, and Texans head coach Bill O’Brien–formerly of the Patriots–believes McDaniels deserves a second chance and could thrive as an NFL head coach, writes Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Richie Incognito has rewarded the Bills for giving him a second chance by delivering one of the best seasons of his career. General manager Doug Whaley praised his play, saying he should be in consideration for Comeback Player of the Year and recognized as a top-five guard in the NFL, writes Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. He is the second-best guard in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

East Notes: Amukamara, Williams, Dolphins

Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara has a partial tear in his pectoral area, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson (Twitter link). Amukamara shouldn’t miss a huge chunk of time, but he may be sidelined for at least three or four weeks, so we’ll see if the Giants make any roster moves to add depth to the secondary. For what it’s worth, New York still has its IR-DTR slot available, but it doesn’t sounds as if Amukamara will be a candidate for it.

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams was considered the most talented player in this year’s draft class, so it came as a bit of a surprise when Washington passed on him with the fifth overall pick. However, as Brian Costello of the New York Post writes, Williams and Jets coach Todd Bowles are happy the rookie defender didn’t end up in Washington. “I think this was the best place I could have landed out of all the top teams,” Williams said. “I’m just fortunate to be here. I’m glad they picked me even though they had a stout D-line. It paid off just because I could learn from all these guys.”
  • For all the hype and coverage the Dolphins‘ free agent signing of Ndamukong Suh received last March, there have been no real winners in that saga, writes Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. As Rothstein observes, with the Dolphins and Lions having combined for a single victory through five weeks, the only real winner of the blockbuster move so far is Suh’s bank account.
  • Speaking of the Dolphins, only one team – New Orleans – has more dead money on its 2015 salary cap than Miami, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com outlines. Corry points out that the teams with the most sunk costs on their caps this year are, for the most part, among the league’s worst this season — the seven clubs with the most 2015 dead money have a combined 9-25 record.