Leonard Williams

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Williams

Two players linked to the Cowboys in recent weeks are not in the team’s plans, it appears. Jadeveon Clowney has the Cowboys and Saints at or near the top of his figurative list, but the pass rusher who has been connected to nearly half the league this offseason is off Dallas’ radar, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes. That also applies to David Njoku, the Browns tight end connected to the Cowboys after his trade request surfaced recently. The Cowboys signed Aldon Smith and have Tyrone Crawford and four recent draft picks joining DeMarcus Lawrence at defensive end. They also are looking likely to carry Dak Prescott‘s $31.4MM cap number on their books this season, limiting funding for a Clowney deal. At tight end, the Cowboys lost Jason Witten but extended Blake Jarwin. Beyond Jarwin, however, the team is fairly thin at this spot.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • One member of the Cowboys’ D-end contingent may not have a chance to supplement Lawrence. The Cowboys have continued to hope for the NFL to reinstate Randy Gregory, but as of Monday, Hill adds that the team has largely given up on this notion. The NFL banned Gregory indefinitely for substance abuse, and although the new CBA’s suspension structure is focused more on PEDs, the former second-round pick was suspended four times under the previous CBA’s discipline structure. Despite being drafted in 2015, Gregory has played 28 career games.
  • Returning to the Clowney news cycle, the free agent edge rusher wants to join a winning team, veteran Seattle-based NFL reporter John Clayton said during an ESPN 97.3 radio interview (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.radio.com), adding that the Eagles will appeal to the free agent. Clowney’s hesitance about the Browns stemmed from their modern history as a losing team; his Dolphins reluctance did as well, Clayton adds. The Eagles were unwilling to approach Clowney’s lofty asking price earlier this offseason, but with the Browns bowing out and the Seahawks not expected to match their previous offer, his price may now be reduced. And Philadelphia has not been shy about loading up along its lines.
  • Although the Giants plan to pay at least $16.1MM to see if Leonard Williams fits into Patrick Graham‘s defensive scheme, they have not given up on a long-term fit. Big Blue and Williams did not come close on an extension agreement, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the team can still see a Williams accord coming to pass after the 2020 season. To secure the kind of money he seeks, Williams will need to improve on his half-sack (in 15 games) showing of 2019.
  • The Eagles are ready to increase T.J. Edwards‘ role. Despite the second-year player arriving in the league as a UDFA, the Eagles are penciling him in as their starting middle linebacker, Shorr-Parks notes. A Wisconsin alum, Edwards played just 11% of Philly’s 2019 defensive snaps. But the Eagles cut Nigel Bradham and do not have a host of high-profile names at linebacker. The team did draft two linebackers — in Rounds 3 and 6 — this year, however. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made this a bad year for rookie development.

Giants’ Leonard Williams To Play On Tag

Giants defensive end Leonard Williams will play out the 2020 season on his one-year franchise tender, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. The two sides technically have until Wednesday to hammer out a deal, but they’re both comfortable with playing things by ear. 

The Giants tagged Williams earlier this year with a one-year franchise tender. Previously classified as a defensive tackle, Williams was set to file a grievance to be tagged as a defensive end. This year, the DT tag pays $16.1MM while the defensive end tag is priced at $17.9MM. It’s possible that Williams has found middle ground with the G-Men with a deal that pays him ~$17MM for the upcoming year.

Giants GM Dave Gettleman was widely criticized for the acquisition of Williams and equally panned for his decision to tag him. The one-time No. 6 overall pick of the Jets has not met expectations in terms of sacks, but it’s worth noting that his 101 quarterback hits since 2015 rank 12th in the NFL. Williams registered zero sacks in seven Giants games last year, but Gettleman believes that he can turn the corner.

The Giants are comfortable with waiting until next year to revisit talks and the same goes for Williams. If Williams can up his sack totals across a full and productive season with the Giants, he could be in for much greater riches next March.

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Status Of All 15 Tagged Players Prior to July 15 Extension Deadline

The clock is ticking for tagged players to sign extensions with their teams, per the league calendar.

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.

Already Signed Tag

*Received transition tag (vs. franchise tag)

Haven’t Signed Tag, Won’t Hold Out

Haven’t Signed Tag, Threatening Hold Out

East Notes: Newton, Williams, Giants

Most of Cam Newton‘s 2020 earning potential will be through incentives. As for base salary, the Patriots landed a former MVP for the league minimum. Newton will earn just $1.05MM in 2020 base salary, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter). The Pats entered the week with the least cap space in the NFL. New England guaranteed Newton just $550K, which is notable given the veteran passer’s injury issues in recent years. Newton underwent foot surgery in December and has rehabbed that Lisfranc issue for several months. The 31-year-old standout can collect $6.45MM through incentives and pre-game roster bonuses, La Canfora adds. The contract does not prevent the Pats from franchise-tagging Newton next year.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • The Giants and Leonard Williams discussed a new deal late last season and before the March franchise tag deadline, but the sides were not especially close on terms. Now franchise-tagged at $16.1MM, Williams wants a deal that will pay him between $18-$20MM per year, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes. The Giants did not want to go there. Although Dave Gettleman traded for Williams in a contract year, Vacchiano adds the ex-Jet may have less support among Giants brass. While Williams is a former top-10 pick, he has 17.5 sacks in five seasons — including a half-sack last year. That sack total ranks 84th since 2015, though the interior defender’s 101 QB hits rank 12th in that span. This massive gap, along with the tag, creates an interesting negotiation.
  • Evan Engram may have missed Giants team activities in a normal offseason; the fourth-year tight end underwent foot surgery late last year. But New York’s top tight end recently posted a video featuring him running and cutting, via the New York Post. While Engram is far from a safe bet, given his injury propensity as a pro, this represents a good sign for a Giants team that did not use its top skill-position configuration — Engram-Saquon BarkleySterling ShepardGolden TateDarius Slayton — once last season.
  • Despite the Patriots waiting until late June to add their likely starting quarterback, their QB situation now looks better than the Redskins‘. Ron Rivera discussed a Newton deal earlier this offseason but said this week the fit was not right in Washington. “If the circumstances had allowed us, I would not have had an issue with that,” Rivera said during an interview with 670 The Score (via NBC Sports Washington). “I would’ve been very confident and comfortable going after him and bringing him to be part of what we’re doing here.” The Redskins are set to enter training camp with Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen as their top healthy QBs, though Alex Smith remains on the roster.

Giants’ Leonard Williams To File Grievance

Leonard Williams signed his franchise tender this week, but things are far from settled. The Giants lineman will file a grievance to be classified as a defensive end rather than a defensive tackle, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets

[POLL: What Will Giants Do At No. 4?]

This year, the franchise tag for defensive tackles is worth $16.1MM while the defensive end tag is priced at $17.9MM. That would make a difference of $1.8MM for the coming year and, more importantly, it’d give Williams’ camp additional leverage in talks.

Dave Gettleman was widely criticized for his decision to tag Williams this offseason. Although talented, Williams has been inconsistent throughout his career. By cuffing him in March, the Giants put Williams on the books for the second-highest cap number on the team.

Really what it came down to was we felt good about our cap space,” the Giants GM said. “We felt for what Leonard brings to the table and for our team, it was more prudent to put the franchise tag on him.”

Meanwhile, Williams is pressing for a long term deal. The two sides have until mid-July to hash out a contract, but Gettleman doesn’t seem to be in any rush.

You can’t guarantee anything in this life, but we have gotten to know Leonard really well and I feel really comfortable with the decision,” Gettleman said. “Contracts get done when they’re supposed to get done. So we’ll move along.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Leonard Williams Signs Franchise Tender

The Giants will have Leonard Williams in the fold for their virtual offseason program. The franchise-tagged defensive lineman intends to sign his tender, according to the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard (on Twitter).

It remains unclear, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, if Williams will be tagged as a defensive end or tackle (Twitter link). Were Williams to be tagged as a tackle, his tender price would be $16.1MM. As an end, he would be attached to a $17.8MM figure.

When the Giants tagged Williams, they believed they were clear he will be tagged as a D-tackle; Williams, understandably, wants to be tagged as an end (Twitter link via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano). Williams played 560 snaps inside last season and just 81 at end, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). That seems to make this a fairly open-and-shut case, despite Williams being listed as a defensive end for a 3-4 scheme.

Williams and the Giants are not believed to be close on an extension, per Vacchiano (on Twitter). Williams has until July 15 to sign an extension or play the 2020 season on the tag. Signing the tender now will prevent the Giants from rescinding it, locking in Williams to a big payday in what could end up being the most uncertain offseason in modern NFL history.

It surprised many when the Giants tagged Williams, just as it did when they acquired him via trade months before his contract was set to expire. While the former Jets No. 6 overall pick has not been productive as a sack artist, his 101 quarterback hits since 2015 rank 12th in the NFL. His 17.5 career sacks, however, do not even rank in the top 80 in that span. Williams registered no sacks in seven Giants games and collected just a half-sack in 15 total games last season.

The Giants are deep on their defensive line. Williams joins Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill and 2019 first-round pick Dexter Lawrence up front. All four graded in the top 40, per Pro Football Focus, among D-linemen last year. Williams, interestingly, graded lowest among Big Blue’s talented quartet last season. Dave Gettleman has referenced a Tomlinson extension may be in the cards. Tomlinson is going into a contract year. Williams will either be a high-priced rental — with 2020 doubling as a prove-it year — or the Giants’ D-line is about to become expensive.

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Dave Gettleman Addresses Leonard Williams Franchise Tag

The Giants made one of the more surprising franchise tag decisions in recent years last month, keeping Leonard Williams off the market. The former top-10 pick is now attached to a $16.1MM price — the second-highest cap number on the Giants’ payroll.

Coming off a season in which he registered a half-sack in 15 games, it did not appear Williams would fetch this kind of AAV on the market. While Williams was aiming for a big contract in free agency, the Giants’ decision to use the tag helped create a high floor for the one-time Pro Bowl alternate.

Really what it came down to was we felt good about our cap space,” Giants GM Dave Gettleman said. “We felt for what Leonard brings to the table and for our team, it was more prudent to put the franchise tag on him.”

The Giants, who were 2-6 at last year’s trade deadline, made the surprising move to acquire Williams from the Jets despite the USC product being months away from free agency. Williams has done fairly well as a pressure artist, totaling the 12th-most quarterback hits (101) since 2015. However, his 17.5 career sacks are tied for 87th in that span. The Williams trade also came after the Giants had already built a solid defensive line featuring Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill and 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence.

Although the Giants came into free agency with more than $70MM in cap space, they devoted a sizable chunk of their available funds to Williams, James Bradberry and Blake Martinez. They now hold less than $18MM in cap room and still have a need at edge rusher. They are unlikely to re-sign Markus Golden, and Gettleman indicated the team did not plan to devote much money to the premium position this year.

Big Blue has until July 15 to finalize an extension with Williams. And with the team perhaps not preparing to propose an extension that matches Williams’ tag salary, this could be a situation where the recent trade acquisition plays next season on the tag.

You can’t guarantee anything in this life, but we have gotten to know Leonard really well and I feel really comfortable with the decision,” Gettleman said. “Contracts get done when they’re supposed to get done. So we’ll move along.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Williams

While the Cowboys have imported two of the 2019 Panthers’ three defensive line starters — in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe — they are not looking to move on from Tyrone Crawford. The Cowboys have asked Crawford to yo-yo between defensive end and tackle in his career, and with the two high-profile veterans coming to Dallas, it is reasonable to wonder about their longtime lineman’s role. But as of now, it should be expected Crawford will be Dallas’ starting D-end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News notes. Despite Crawford only playing in four games last season, the Cowboys are also not expected to ask the 30-year-old lineman to take a pay cut from the $8MM salary he is due in 2020, Moore adds. Crawford, whose contract is up after 2020, would be taking the place of Robert Quinn opposite Lawrence. Quinn signed a mega-deal with the Bears.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles entered the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes, but the Cardinals’ offer of David Johnson and a second-round pick surprisingly won out. Howie Roseman said Thursday the deal the Texans offered him was different than what the Cardinals ended up agreeing to, per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). It is not known what the Eagles offered, but this marks the most recent instance of them entering the pursuit of a high-profile AFC South player and not winning out. Roseman bowed out of the Jalen Ramsey sweepstakes last year. The lofty Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson cap numbers would have made a Hopkins extension interesting for Philly to navigate.
  • Despite the Cowboys signing both McCoy and Poe to help on their interior defensive line, they are not likely to look outside the organization to help on their interior O-line. Travis Frederick‘s successor will probably be an in-house move, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Considering the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the 2019 third round and re-signed Joe Looney — their 2018 replacement for Frederick — it should not surprise they will look internally at center. The Cowboys placed a second-round grade on McGovern last year, and even though he missed all of last season, the Penn State product should have a good shot at succeeding Frederick.
  • Although nearly half the league used a franchise or a transition tag this year, the GiantsLeonard Williams tag may have been the most interesting decision. New York’s Williams tag will cost at least $16.1MM (the defensive tackle price) and could run as much as $17.8MM (for defensive ends), but Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes the Giants are not likely to sign the former Jets first-rounder to a deal that averages $16MM per year. If that is the case, Williams should be expected to play 2020 on the tag.
  • The Cowboys gave Kai Forbath a one-year, $1.18MM deal, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). The veteran kicker, who succeeded Brett Maher last year, will receive a $137K signing bonus.
  • The Giants‘ deal for ex-Patriots special-teamer Nate Ebner is a one-year, $2MM pact, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Ebner will receive a $950K roster bonus and a $1.05MM base salary.

Giants To Franchise Leonard Williams

The Giants surprised most by trading for Leonard Williams at last year’s deadline, and the team will not let the former top-10 pick hit free agency. Big Blue is expected to use its franchise tag on Williams, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

While this qualifies as one of the more interesting tag decisions in recent years, this will allow the Giants to minimize the trade haul they will send to the Jets. The Giants only have to deal third- and fourth-round picks to the Jets if they extend Williams by the start of the new league year. A Giants franchise tag, instead, means Gang Green will only receive third- and fifth-rounders, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY confirms (via Twitter).

Williams has a Pro Bowl on his resume, but the 2015 No. 6 overall pick has not lived up to expectations. He registered merely a half-sack in 2019 and posted just two tackles for loss in his season with both New York teams. This move will either cost the Giants $17.8MM — if Williams is tagged as a defensive end — or $16.1MM (the defensive tackle price).

A Williams tag also may impact the Giants’ prospects at landing one of the top non-tagged outside linebackers on the market. They are rumored to be interested in Jadeveon Clowney but reportedly not willing to authorize a top-market contract for the former No. 1 overall pick.

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Giants, Leonard Williams Not Close On Deal

Five-plus months after making a surprising trade for contract-year defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the Giants still have some work to do to re-sign him. The sides are not close on an extension, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The former top-10 pick is expected to have a strong market in free agency, and Rapoport adds that the franchise tag remains a possibility. The Giants stand to hold more than $70MM in cap space but have many needs.

Dave Gettleman said earlier this year that Williams wanted to re-sign with the Giants. Williams, however, said he would not do so without a top-tier deal. The Giants traded for Williams just before the deadline. If the Giants extend Williams before free agency opens, they owe the Jets third- and fourth-round picks. If no extension occurs in that time, the compensation drops to third- and fifth-round selections.

The prospect of a Williams re-up with the Giants may stand at 50-50, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. Big Blue has been linked to Jadeveon Clowney in free agency while also not being prepared to give him a top-market deal. Given that the Giants’ present strength on defense resides up front — where Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson are under contract — it would be interesting to see them hand Williams a major extension and pass on Clowney, who has the Giants on his short list. With B.J. Hill also in the fold, it can be argued the Giants should pass on a long-term Williams deal and devote money to other needs.

Nevertheless, the Giants want to retain Williams. This makes sense given that they dealt a third-rounder and change for him despite not being a contending team last season. Williams recorded career-low numbers in sacks (0.5) and quarterback hits (11) last season and has not delivered on the promise he carried into the 2015 draft, when the Jets selected him at No. 5 overall. Williams, however, is just 25 and has a Pro Bowl on his resume. He also registered a career-high 25 QB hits in 2017 and, lack of sacks notwithstanding, has graded fairly well in the view of Pro Football Focus throughout his career.

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