Leonard Williams

Poll: Who Fared Best At Trade Deadline

A week removed from this year’s trade deadline, every team will soon have its acquired talent in uniform. The 49ers, Lions and Jaguars made trades while in bye weeks; Chase Young, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Ezra Cleveland will suit up for their new teams soon.

On this note, it is time to gauge the position every notable buyer and seller landed in following the deals. This year’s deadline featured two second-round picks being moved, though the teams that made those moves (Chicago, Seattle) have different timelines in place.

We have to start with the Commanders, who scrapped their yearslong Young-Montez Sweat partnership by making the surprise decision to move both defensive ends hours before the deadline. Although the team was listening to offers on both, it was widely assumed they would only part with one, thus saving a contract offer or a 2024 franchise tag for the other alongside well-paid D-tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. New owner Josh Harris looks to have made his bigger-picture plan clear, however, pressing upon the Commanders’ football-ops department to explore moving both.

Washington collected a second-rounder that likely will land in the 30s in exchange for Sweat, who was in a contract year at the time. It only obtained a compensatory third for Young, who drew interest from other teams (including the Ravens). For the first time in the common draft era, Washington holds five picks in the first three rounds. It cannot be assumed Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew will be making those picks, but Harris has effectively forced his hot-seat staffers to make do this season without Young and Sweat, who have combined for 11.5 sacks this year.

The initial team to pounce on the Commanders’ sale made a buyer’s move despite being in a seller’s position for the second straight year. After trading what became the No. 32 overall pick for Chase Claypool, GM Ryan Poles signed off on the Sweat pickup. The Bears have struggled to rush the passer under Matt Eberflus, having traded Khalil Mack in March 2022 and Robert Quinn last October. While acquiring a veteran in a contract year injects risk into the equation, Poles had the franchise tag at his disposal. But the Bears made good use of their newfound negotiating rights with Sweat, extending him on a four-year, $98MM pact. Despite no Pro Bowls or double-digit sack seasons, Sweat is now the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid edge rusher. Though, the Bears’ long-term edge outlook appears rosier compared to its pre-Halloween view.

Mayhew, Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel have provided third-round compensatory picks for the 49ers, who have been the NFL’s chief beneficiary of the Rooney Rule tweak that awards third-round picks to teams who see minority coaches or execs become HCs or GMs. The team has more picks coming after the Ran Carthon and DeMeco Ryans hires. Using one to acquire Young seems like a low-risk move, given the former Defensive Rookie of the Year’s talent. Young has made strides toward recapturing the form he showed before his severe 2021 knee injury, and he is on pace for a career high in sacks.

The 49ers, who won last year’s trade deadline by landing Christian McCaffrey, will deploy Young alongside ex-college teammate Nick Bosa and the rest of their high-priced D-line contingent. The team will have a decision to make on Young soon; the free agent-to-be is not eyeing in-season extension talks, either. San Francisco could at least be in position to nab a midround compensatory pick, should Young leave in 2024.

The Young move came a day after the Seahawks obtained Leonard Williams from the Giants. That move cost Seattle second- and fifth-round picks. Williams is also in a contract year, but with the Giants picking up most of the tab, Seattle has the veteran D-tackle on its cap sheet at $647K. The former Jets top-10 pick has shown consistent ability to provide inside pressure, and the USC alum’s best work came in his previous contract year (2020). Gunning for another big payday, Williams joins Dre’Mont Jones in what is probably the best interior D-line duo of the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll era.

Seattle still surrendered a second-round pick for a player who could be a rental. Williams cannot realistically be franchise-tagged in 2024, with the Giants tagging him in 2020 and ’21, and he is not yet on Seattle’s extension radar. The Giants have already paid Dexter Lawrence and were planning on letting Williams walk. They passed on a comp pick for the trade haul, effectively buying a second-round pick in the way the Broncos did in the 2021 Von Miller trade. The Giants, who suddenly could be in the market for a 2024 QB addition, now have an additional second-rounder at their disposal.

While they made their move a week before the deadline, the Eagles landed the most accomplished player of this year’s in-season trade crop. Kevin Byard is a two-time first-team All-Pro safety, and although he is in his age-30 season, the former third-round pick is signed through 2024. The Eagles sent the Titans fifth- and sixth-round picks (and Terrell Edmunds) for Byard, a Philadelphia native, marking the team’s second splash trade for a safety in two years. Philly’s C.J. Gardner-Johnson swap turned out well, and Byard not being a pure rental could make this a better move.

Rather than turning to a fifth-round rookie, the Vikings acquired Josh Dobbs in a pick swap involving sixth- and/or seventh-rounders and saw the move translate to a surprising Week 9 win. Dobbs following in Baker Mayfield‘s footsteps as a trade acquisition-turned-immediate starter also made him the rare QB to see extensive action for two teams in two weeks; Mayfield was inactive in his final game as a Panther. The well-traveled Dobbs could give the Vikings a better chance to stay afloat in the NFC playoff race.

The Lions (Peoples-Jones), Jaguars (Cleveland) and Bills (Rasul Douglas) also made buyer’s moves at the deadline. The Bills gave the Packers a third-round pick, collecting a fifth in the pick-swap deal, for Douglas. They will hope the Green Bay starter can help stabilize their cornerback corps after Tre’Davious White‘s second major injury.

Who ended up faring the best at this year’s deadline? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this year’s moves in the comments section.

Seahawks Unlikely To Extend DT Leonard Williams In 2023

Seattle was among the teams to make a notable splash on the trade front, acquiring Leonard Williams from the Giants. The veteran defensive tackle’s contract was restructured to make the deal feasible, but a new pact should not be expected in the near future.

The Seahawks sent New York a second-round pick in 2024 along with a 2025 fifth-rounder. In return, the Giants agreed to rework Williams’ deal, leaving the Seahawks on the hook for only a prorated portion of the veteran’s minimum. That arrangement helped the Giants secure notable draft compensation for a veteran on an expiring deal, and gave Seattle a cost-effective starter on their defensive front.

In many cases, acquiring teams quickly work out extensions for players upon trading for them. That turned out to be the case for the Bears with Montez Sweat, who inked a monster deal before making his Chicago debut. At the age of 29, though, Williams finds himself in a different situation. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports no extension is likely before the end of the 2023 season for the Pro Bowler.

Williams’ sizeable cap hit was a key talking point entering the campaign, but the Giants elected to neither move him during the summer or work out an extension to flatten his 2023 hit. That decision, along with the notable trade offer from the Seahawks, has now resulted in Williams heading to the West coast. His play in Seattle will determine his value on an extended look by his new team or on the open market if he reaches free agency.

The former top-10 pick saw his production dip toward the end of his time in New York, despite his playing time remaining consistent. After posting 11.5 sacks in 2020, Williams took a step back in that department each subsequent campaign, recording just 1.5 in 2023. An uptick in that category during his audition period in the Emerald City would go a long way in boosting his free agent stock, though a repeat of his three-year, $63MM contract handed out by the Giants will surely not take place in 2024.

Deadline Notes: Dolphins, Saints, Rams

The Dolphins are one of the most explosive teams in the NFL and sit tied atop the AFC with a 6-2 record. While Miami has clearly established themselves as a contender, the team remained quiet through the deadline. In fact, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters that the Dolphins really didn’t have any trades in the works leading up to the deadline.

This is mostly because of the team’s IR situation, and the Dolphins will soon see a number of talented players return from injury. As McDaniel explained to reporters, those additions should give the Dolphins the boost that they would have been seeking via trade.

“Yeah, we actually have several of the best trades that exist in the works. Ok? You’re talking about getting players with no compensation, or no assets given, from injury. So, I mean, we’re in a great spot,” McDaniels said (via Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com).

“I think [GM] Chris [Grier] is always, and will always enter into, you know, whatever conversations that are sought out to him and, you know, that’s that’s a part of his job. He doesn’t labor my mind with, ‘Hey, you know, like NFL gossip, like, hey, I talked to this guy and this guy,’ you know, he, he, he brings it to my attention when we need to discuss it when it, when it’s to a serious platform.

“And he didn’t discuss anything. And that speaks to where we’re at with our football team. We’ve been playing some good football, and then we have some players that are very good players that are returning.”

Safety Jevon Holland (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), and center Connor Williams (groin) are among the injured players who could return to the field as soon as this week.

More notes following the trade deadline:

  • Following a quiet deadline day, Saints GM Mickey Loomis admitted that he discussed acquiring players for draft assets but never actively shopped any of the players on his roster. “We talked to a couple of teams about a couple of things, more in the acquisition area as opposed to trading somebody,”  Loomis said (h/t John Hendrix). “We didn’t really talk about trading anyone from our team. We did talk to a couple teams about an acquisition, but I wouldn’t say it ever got really serious.” The Saints currently sit with a 4-4 record and are tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South.
  • The Rams have a 3-5 record and are facing some uncertainty at QB, leading some pundits to wonder if they’d be sellers at the deadline. While the team received calls on some veterans, the Rams never shopped any of their star players. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Rams didn’t consider moving Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, or Aaron Donald despite the front office potentially having eyes on the 2024 campaign.
  • Similarly, the Cowboys didn’t initiate any trade talks with teams, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. The reporter notes that the front office did receive some calls on their defensive depth, but the Cowboys were content sticking with their current squad.
  • Some details on trades that were actually made: the conditional seventh-round pick that the Cardinals sent to the Vikings alongside QB Joshua Dobbs was a selection that originated with the Falcons, per Howard Balzer. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Brady Henderson notes that the Giants are paying most of the remaining $10MM on Leonard Williams‘ contract, with the Seahawks owing their new player only $647K.

Giants, Seahawks Agree To Leonard Williams Trade

The next major trade domino has fallen. The Giants are sending defensive lineman Leonard Williams to the Seahawks, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.

In exchange, Seattle is sending a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-rounder to New York. The deal marks an end to Williams’ time in the Big Apple and puts to rest long-running questions about his future with the organization. It will also give Seattle a signficant boost along the defensive front.

As part of the agreement, the Giants restructured Williams’ deal. They will pay out $9.35MM of Williams’ remaining salary as a signing bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That will allow for proration into void years. As a result of that move – which will help the Seahawks absorb his remaining 2023 salary and his cap hit, and no doubt played a role in helping the price include a Day 2 pick – the trade will not be official until after 3pm today. Indeed, Albert Breer of SI reports the Giants will retain all but the veteran’s minimum before sending Williams westward. Another factor which drove up Williams’ price was the interest he generated amongst contending teams.

Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz notes the Giants had “several suitors” in on the 29-year-old. Seattle has outbid the other teams which showed interest, though, and they will now take on Williams for at least the remainder of the season (which calls for a 2023 salary of $18MM). The Seahawks will take on roughly $650K of that figure as Williams looks to contribute to a playoff contender ahead of free agency in March.

A three-year, $63MM extension signed in 2021 left Williams with the league’s highest cap hit amongst defenders this season. For that reason, many speculated that an extension or restructure would be worked out. The former Jets first-rounder made it clear he was open to another Giants contract, but general manager Joe Schoen insisted throughout the offseason no such move would be coming. After standing pat during the summer, New York has now swung a deal ensuring greater draft compensation than the team would have been due in the event Williams walked in free agency. As Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport notes, the Giants knew the possibility of Williams departing in the spring was high.

The Seahawks entered Monday with less cap space than the roughly $10MM remaining on Williams’ deal. As a result, the Giants’ decision to retain essentially all of his outstanding compensation was necessary. While that will hinder their 2023 cap situation, it will provide some clarity moving forward with a number of other extensions on the team’s priority list. Seattle, meanwhile, will see another high-profile veteran join a new-look defensive front.

Uchenna Nwosu‘s season-ending injury helped bring about a Seahawks reunion with Frank Clark. The latter will help in the edge rush department, while Williams will aim to provide a starting-caliber presence along the interior. His 2023 performance (21 tackles, 1.5 sacks) has fallen short of his previous years in New York, but the USC alum will have the chance to boost his free agent stock on a Seattle front which underwent signficant changes this offseason.

Most significantly, that included signing Dre’Mont Jones to a lucrative pact in free agency. The former Bronco has registered a pair of sacks so far while logging a starter’s role on a defense which ranks eighth against the run. Seattle will look to upgrade in the interior pass-rush department with Williams now in the fold, though the team already sits in the top five in sacks (26).

While this will likely be the only major move made by the Seahawks ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s deadline, the Giants have been named as a team to watch in the seller’s category. They have made clear their intention of retaining Saquon Barkley, but other players could be on the move. It will be interesting to see how New York approaches its remaining deadline plans, and how much of an effect this deal has on the market for other notable defenders.

Giants, Adoree’ Jackson Discuss Extension; Leonard Williams Deal Not On Radar

Adoree’ Jackson‘s MCL sprain decimated the Giants at cornerback last season. Although the team made a surprising run to the playoffs, it spent much of the stretch run without Jackson and its other Week 1 starting corner (Aaron Robinson).

Robinson has not returned to practice yet, remaining on New York’s active/PUP list due to the knee injury he suffered early last season, but first-round pick Deonte Banks now joins Jackson as a surefire starter. Banks’ presence, along with the host of big-ticket deals the Giants handed out this year, complicates Jackson’s Big Apple future. The former first-round pick is going into the final year of a contract the Joe Schoen regime did not authorize.

[RELATED: Giants Do Not Intend To Extend Xavier McKinney In 2023]

While a previous report indicated the Giants were not planning Jackson extension talks, the seventh-year defender said (via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan) conversations about a second agreement with the team have occurred. Jackson’s three-year, $39MM deal calls for a $19.1MM cap number this season. The team already attached a 2024 void year for cap purposes.

The Giants doled out a $40MM-per-year deal for Daniel Jones, while Andrew Thomas and Dexter Lawrence are now respectively tied to $23.5MM- and $22.5MM-AAV extensions. Each contract will produce a significant cap spike between 2023 and ’24. Jones’ cap number rises from $21.75MM this year to $45MM in 2024. Thomas’ vaults from $9.3MM to $23.7MM, while Lawrence’s balloons from $6.7MM to $21.9MM. These changes will result in adjustments for the Giants, with Jackson’s future with the team in doubt.

Jackson, who is going into his age-28 season, became a more important Giants piece following the team’s May 2022 James Bradberry release. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson, a former Pac-12 long jump champion while at USC, just outside the top 30 at corner last year. Missing seven games due to injury, the 5-foot-11 defender still returned in time for the team’s wild-card win in Minnesota and accounted himself well against Justin Jefferson.

The Giants have experimented with Jackson in the slot during training camp. A strong second year in Don Martindale‘s system could create another good market for the ex-Titans first-rounder in March. Even with Banks in the fold, cornerback will be a key need for the Giants if they do not re-sign Jackson before the 2024 legal tampering period.

This offseason has revealed zero hesitation on Schoen’s part about committing to Dave Gettleman investments, with Jones, Lawrence and Thomas all first-rounders under the since-departed GM. Higher on the Giants’ 2023 payroll, Leonard Williams is also going into a walk year. Gettleman gave the 2019 trade acquisition a three-year, $63MM extension shortly after applying a second franchise tag in March 2021. Williams holds the highest cap number among NFL defenders this year — by a wide margin. Williams’ $32.3MM number jumps out on a Giants payroll that does not include another cap hit north of $22MM.

A June report pointed to the Giants not eyeing an adjustment to bring down Williams’ monster cap number, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the team remains unlikely to address the deal. No extension or pay cut should be expected here, with the Giants viewing the ninth-year veteran as an important piece in Brian Daboll‘s second season. Williams, 29, is not a 2024 franchise tag candidate, since the Giants have already tagged him twice. He is open to an extension with the team.

Williams fared well during his most recent contract year (2020), totaling a career-high 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. Jackson’s former USC teammate has not topped 15 QB hits in the two seasons since, but with the prospect of one final major payday in play, motivation will certainly exist for the ex-Jets top-10 draftee in 2023. With Lawrence’s contract running through 2027, however, Williams is no longer the Giants’ D-line centerpiece.

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Defense

While the NFL’s top 2023 cap hits go to players on offense, a number of pass rushers are tied to lofty figures as well. None check in higher than Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Williams and Chiefs D-tackle Chris Jones carry high contract-year cap hits, while the Steelers’ two front-seven cornerstones each are set to go into training camp with cap figures north of $20MM. As the salary cap climbed to $224.8MM this year, here are the top defensive cap figures as camps near:

  1. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $32.26MM
  2. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $29.37MM
  3. Myles Garrett, DE (Browns): $29.18MM
  4. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $28.29MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DL (Rams): $26MM
  6. Arik Armstead, DT (49ers): $23.95MM
  7. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $22.26MM
  8. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $21.48MM
  9. Jonathan Allen, DT (Commanders): $21.44MM
  10. Shaquil Barrett, OLB (Buccaneers): $21.25MM
  11. Grady Jarrett, DT (Falcons): $20.63MM
  12. Marlon Humphrey, CB (Ravens): $19.99MM
  13. Shaquille Leonard, LB (Colts): $19.79MM
  14. Kevin Byard, S (Titans): $19.62MM
  15. Adoree’ Jackson, CB (Giants): $19.08MM
  16. Harold Landry, OLB (Titans): $18.8MM
  17. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.15MM
  18. Jamal Adams, S (Seahawks): $18.11MM
  19. Matt Judon, DE (Patriots): $18.107MM
  20. Quandre Diggs, S (Seahawks): $18.1MM
  21. Nick Bosa, DE (49ers): $17.9MM
  22. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $17.25MM
  23. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Dolphins): $17.19MM
  24. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE (Cowboys): $17.11MM
  25. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $17.1MM

The Chiefs are working toward a second extension agreement with Jones, who is in the final season of a four-year, $80MM contract. A new deal with the star inside pass rusher would free up cap space, and DeAndre Hopkins is believed to be monitoring this situation.

As for Williams, the Giants had wanted to adjust his deal to reduce his eye-opening cap number. As of mid-June, however, no extension appeared to be on the team’s radar. The previous Giants regime signed off on the 2021 Williams extension (three years, $63MM). The Giants are also uninterested — for the time being, at least — in extending Jackson, who was also a Dave Gettleman-era defensive addition.

Donald is in the second season of a three-year, $95MM deal. The Rams gave Donald a landmark raise last year, convincing the all-everything D-tackle to squash retirement talk. A no-trade clause exists in Donald’s contract, which pays out its guarantees this year. Mosley remains tied to the $17MM-per-year deal the Mike Maccagnan regime authorized with the Jets. That contract, which reset the off-ball linebacker market in 2019, still has two seasons remaining on it due to the deal tolling after Mosley’s 2020 COVID-19 opt-out call. The Jets restructured the deal last year.

Washington now has two D-tackles tied to deals of at least $18MM per year. While Daron Payne‘s pact is worth more ($22.5MM AAV), higher cap hits on that deal will come down the road. Three years remain on Allen’s 2021 agreement. At safety, no team is spending like the Seahawks. In addition to the big-ticket deals authorized for Adams and Diggs, Seattle gave ex-Giants starter Julian Love a two-year, $6MM accord in March.

New Titans GM Ran Carthon attempted to give Byard a pay cut. That request did not go over well, but the standout safety remains with the team and has not requested a trade. Tennessee re-signed Landry on a five-year, $87.5MM deal in 2022; the veteran edge rusher has yet to play on that deal due to the ACL tear he sustained just before last season.

The 49ers can bring Bosa’s number down via an extension, which has long been on the team’s docket. As San Francisco extended Deebo Samuel just after training camp began last year, Bosa received back-burner treatment due to the fifth-year option. The star defensive end’s price undoubtedly went up during the waiting period, with the former No. 2 overall pick earning Defensive Player of the Year acclaim in the fourth year of his rookie contract.

Leonard Williams Open To Giants Extension

The Giants have already addressed their defensive line plenty this offseason with the extension of defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and the free agent additions of defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Now, the next logical thing to address is the future of defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is set to play out 2023 on the final year of his current contract.

According to Ed Valentine of SB Nation, Williams has expressed interest in staying with the Giants beyond this year. However, it doesn’t seem that there has been much discussion in the direction of an extension. Williams, originally a top-ten draft pick for the Jets in 2015, went across the street to the Giants as a part of a midseason trade in 2019 and performed at a high level for New York in the first two full seasons with his new team. A nagging neck injury throughout the 2022 season led to a down year for Williams as he struggled to return to form throughout the season.

Williams already restructured the second year of his three-year contract last year to help create some cap space, so he’s shown a willingness to be flexible in an effort to help with team finances. He’s set for a massive $32.26MM cap hit in 2023, so it would likely behoove New York to work something out with Williams. We reported days ago, though, that the Giants may be willing to shoulder that financial burden into the year.

That report is bolstered by this new one of little discussion towards the goal of a new deal. The new information, though, tells us that Williams is “open to staying” with the Giants. It may not be up to him if he can’t get back to form in 2023, though. Another down year and he may have trouble convincing the G-Men to extend another contract offer.

Giants Unlikely To Address Leonard Williams’ Contract?

Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams is attached to a $32.3MM cap figure for 2023, which is the third-highest mark in the league and which places Williams behind only Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill. Nonetheless, Big Blue seems prepared to carry that number on its ledger.

Per Dan Duggan of The Athletic (subscription required), the Giants have shown “no interest” in extending Williams, who will be eligible for free agency after the season, or restructuring his contract. Either maneuver, of course, would push more money onto future caps, so it stands to reason that GM Joe Schoen would be hesitant to go down that road for a player whose sack totals have declined sharply over the past two years and who missed significant game action due to injury for the first time in his career in 2022.

Duggan himself reported back in March that Schoen planned to sit down with Williams to discuss a reduction of the player’s cap charge. Based on Duggan’s most recent report, however, it seems as if those talks may have been designed to gauge Williams’ interest in a pay cut and may not have included much conversation about an extension or restructure. Williams suggested in January that he may be amenable to a reduction in pay, but his current stance on the matter is unclear.

Despite Williams’ declining surface-level production — 11.5 sacks in 2020, 6.5 in 2021, and 2.5 in 2022 — he continues to perform well in the eyes of the advanced metrics. Pro Football Focus assigned him a 74.2 overall grade last year, which placed him 19th out of 127 qualified interior linemen, and he was viewed as an above-average run defender and pass rusher. Plus, although Schoen did bolster his DL rotation with free agent acquisitions of A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, the playoff-hopeful Giants are clearly better with Williams than without him, so a release seems unlikely.

Indeed, the Robinson and Nunez-Roches signings may even enhance Williams’ performance by reducing the number of snaps he has to play, which was a priority for Schoen when the offseason began. As Duggan notes, Schoen could theoretically wait until closer to the start of the regular season to demand that Williams agree to a reduction of his $18MM salary, because at that point there will likely be no team that would be willing or able to absorb a contract worth anything close to that figure. Of course, that would represent a hardnosed negotiation tactic that would be sure to anger Williams and his teammates, so Schoen is unlikely to go that route.

For now, it appears that Williams will get his $18MM salary and that the Giants will have to live with his massive cap charge, secure in the knowledge that even if Williams falters in 2023, they will be free from his contract in 2024, when they will only be on the hook for a ~$6MM cap hit stemming from a September restructure.

Nick Gates, Jon Feliciano On Radar To Stay With Giants; Team Wants To Adjust Leonard Williams’ Deal

Nick Gates went from suffering a career-threatening injury to returning as a Giants starter, and the team has interest in keeping him on another contract.

The Giants have begun negotiations with the veteran interior offensive lineman, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post notes. Gates played out his two-year, $6.83MM extension. Both he and center Jon Feliciano are on the radar to stay. Feliciano, who was with GM Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll in Buffalo, signed a one-year, $3.25MM deal in March 2022.

[RELATED: Giants Prepared To Let Saquon Barkley Walk?]

A lower leg fracture in September 2021 ended Gates’ season, and then-HC Joe Judge mentioned the injury as being a potential career-ender for the former starting center. Displaying resilience and versatility, Gates worked his way back into a uniform by this past season’s midpoint. And the ex-center starter took over as a starting left guard soon after. Gates, 27, began sharing the gig with Ben Bredeson. The Giants have Bredeson under contract for 2023, via a 2021 trade, and still have 2022 draftees Joshua Ezeudu and Marcus McKethan on rookie deals.

Given the Giants’ guard situation and higher priorities in free agency, it is notable the team wants to work something out with Gates. Pro Football Focus graded Gates as a top-50 guard this year, slotting him a bit behind right guard Mark Glowinski, a former Colts starter who is signed through 2024. Feliciano being in the picture to stay is a bit more surprising, though his longstanding ties to the current regime certainly help. The 31-year-old blocker ranked outside the top 30 among full-time centers, per PFF, which graded Big Blue’s O-line 30th overall.

Considering the big-picture issues with Barkley, Daniel Jones and Julian Love, the Giants should be considered unlikely to sign off on big raises for Gates or Feliciano. Factoring in their spots as starters, however, Gates and Feliciano’s previous rates are a bit low.

A player whose paygrade checks in higher than most at his position also slots as a Giants offseason priority. Leonard Williams, who signed a three-year deal worth $63MM shortly after the Giants franchise-tagged him for a second time in March 2021, is going into a contract year. The Giants want to reduce his cap hit, with Dan Duggan of The Athletic noting (subscription required) Schoen will meet with the veteran D-lineman about doing so this week. Although void years could be tacked onto Williams’ deal to reduce his massive cap figure ($32.3MM — the most for any D-lineman in 2023), Duggan adds the team’s preferred path here is likely an extension.

The Giants extending Williams will be tricky. While it would reduce the former top-10 pick’s 2023 cap hit, the team also has a Dexter Lawrence extension on the agenda. Lawrence talks have begun, and the breakout D-tackle should be expected to top Williams’ $21MM-per-year price. With Jones set for a major raise and Barkley potentially back on either a franchise tag or an extension, the Giants will need to cut costs in some places. Williams also has seen his production dip since a big 2020 contract year, when he totaled 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits. In 2022, the ex-Jet tallied 2.5 sacks and 12 QB hits. He only played in 12 games, however.

Giants DL Leonard Williams Considering Taking Pay Cut?

The Giants’ salary cap situation will be surrounded by question marks throughout the offseason until the futures of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley become clearer. They face a number of important decisions on the defensive side of the ball as well, though, as they look to build off of their unexpected success in 2022.

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams still carried one of the highest cap hits in the league at his position this season, even after agreeing to a restructure in September which lowered his hit on the Giants’ cap sheet for 2022. As a result of that move, however, his cap hit is scheduled to more than double to $32.3MM in 2023, something which could lead to more adjustments being necessary.

The 28-year-old recently indicated that he would be open to the idea of taking a pay cut to help out New York’s financial situation (Twitter link via Connor Hughes of SNY). Specifically, a reduction in pay could help pave the way for a long-term extension for fellow d-lineman Dexter Lawrence. The latter is set to play on the fifth-year option (valued at $12.4MM) in 2023, but played himself into a considerable raise this season by setting career-highs across the board and earning Pro Bowl and Second Team All-Pro recognition.

Walking back his initial comments to a degree, Williams added a pay cut is “something I haven’t thought about yet, so it’s hard to answer right away,” and that he is “considering all possibilities” (h/t the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy). Without any kind of adjustment, Williams is set to carry the third-highest cap hit in the NFL amongst non-quarterbacks entering the final year of his $63MM extension signed in March 2021.

“I definitely love this team and I want to be here,” Williams added, via Dunleavy. On the other hand, he also said of his contract situation that, “I try to let things like that play out. “I believe the plan is the plan and things are going to work out the way they work out. I did my best this year. I fought through injuries and played my hardest. I’m sure I’ll end up somewhere, if not here. I want to play as long as possible.”

The former Jets first-rounder had his least productive full campaign with the Giants in 2022, a season in which he missed time due to an MCL sprain. He also played through a neck injury at the end of the campaign, though he said surgery is not currently expected to be required during the offseason. In the coming weeks, his financial future will be worth watching as the Giants navigate a pivotal stretch.