Leonard Williams or Dalvin Tomlinson: Should Giants use franchise tag on either?

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John Fennelly
·3 min read
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The New York Giants’ offseason, like most NFL teams this year, is going to be one filled with difficult decisions. The NFL salary cap, which had been increasing by an average of $10 million or so each year over the past decade, is going through a contraction as a result of the effect the COVID-19 restrictions have had on revenues.

With revenues markedly down, the league is likely going to set the 2021 salary cap at $180 million per team. That is down from $198 million in 2020. Teams have been basing their long-term contracts on a cap that, had all things been even, should have been in the $210-$215 million range this year.

That means teams will be operating with $30-35 million less than expected. It’s a bad time to be a free agent and even worse if you’re a general manager trying to maintain and keep a core group of players.

For the Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman, there are two key pending free agents, both defensive linemen: Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.

Williams, who played under the one-year, $16.1 million franchise tag tender last season, is poised for a big payday after logging a career year. Tomlinson, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2017, will see his rookie contract expire next month, sending him into free agency and is expected to draw considerable interest in the market.

The Giants can use the franchise tag on one of them to keep them in the fold, but that is unlikely, per NJ Advance Media’s Zack Rosenblatt.

So if the Giants were to tag Williams again, it would carry a $19.3 million price tag. Williams would have to actually sign the tag to get that money, but as long as he is tagged, the Giants would have to carry that $19.3 million number on their cap sheet for 2021.

The Giants aren’t exactly flush with cap space and they’ve been open about their intention to at least add weapons on offense to help quarterback Daniel Jones. Right now, Over the Cap has the Giants projected for less than $1 million in cap space at an estimated $180.5 million salary cap. The cap could rise, but most expect it only to top out at a few million more.

Bad news for the Giants, who are cap-strapped at the moment. They can free up some cap space by cutting some overpaid veterans but even doing that, says Rosenblatt, they won’t have enough to bring both players back and will be spectators come free agency.

The contracts of left tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Golden Tate need to be abated or terminated and that exercise will be costly. Tight end Evan Engram is also a candidate, but for a trade. The prospect of letting right guard Kevin Zeitler — the only steady player on the offensive line — go is a bit unnerving. Those moves might just be enough to get Williams back in the fold.

More of a reason why the Giants can’t be passive in the upcoming NFL draft. They have to get aggressive and acquire more picks in the top 150 in order to replace the players they are going to have to cut. But, with Gettleman in the big chair, that is not only a long shot, it’s probably the opposite of what will happen. He is more likely to stand pat and let the draft come to him — again — and then take a player that won’t move the needle.

Because of all of the reasons we’ve outlined, it seems highly unlikely that the Giants will or should place the franchise tag on Williams or Tomlinson. If they do, it will serve as little more than a placeholder on the way to a long-term contract.

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