Why Leonard Williams' strong production could be a double-edged sword for Giants

Scott Thompson
·3 min read
Leonard Williams sacks Tom Brady
Leonard Williams sacks Tom Brady

Yet another sack was tallied for Leonard Williams on Sunday in the Giants' win over the Washington Football Team. Two more and he will tie his career high.

Even more important is Williams is producing -- consistently. Sacks don't give the whole story, but he had just half a sack all of last season. And the improvements he's made since being traded to the Giants from the Jets have been apparent. 

It's good to see because, well, Williams is being paid a good chunk of change by the organization. Not being able to strike a long-term extension, GM Dave Gettleman slapped the franchise tag on him and he eventually signed at $16.1 million -- the most of any player on the roster this season by $6 million. 

For Gettleman, especially, it's a good sign because the trade with their close neighbor was heavily booed by just about everyone. Williams wasn't producing at a rate to give away two draft picks even if he was a former first-round pick. And he wasn't able to re-sign him as was the plan.

But with Williams producing now consistently under new tutelage from DC Patrick Graham and defensive line coach Sean Spencer, fans should want him back in Giants blue next season, right?

It depends.

Yes, Williams is finally showing that he is a every-down disruptor. He has seven tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, 13 quarterback pressures and those five sacks we discussed earlier. And that's just through nine games so there should be more.

But if there is more, Williams is certainly going to stick with what he said the entire offseason as the Giants were attempting contract negotiations: he wants to be paid like a top defensive lineman. Frankly, his stats prior to this season didn't warrant that, and explains why SNY's Ralph Vacchiano was saying a deal between $12-13 million per season would by in the team's price range. Williams bet on himself then, though, looking for something around $75 million total over five years with $20 million guaranteed. And he will certainly continue to bet on himself with his performance this season the best it's ever been.

The Giants still have options depending on what happens with his contract situation this upcoming offseason. For one, they can hit him with the franchise tag again. Second, if guaranteed money is the main priority, maybe a short-term deal (2-3 years?) would be better if Williams' price remains too high.

If the long-term deal is the only thing Williams has in mind, the Giants will need to be thinking long and hard. Money allocated to him could be used elsewhere to plug the many holes still on the roster. A top wide receiver expected to be on the market like Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay comes to mind.

Oh, and one last thing: who say Gettleman will even be in the driver's seat as GM this offseason? His job status has been up in the air for a while now, and a new GM would have no connection to Williams. He or she could let him walk if the price tag doesn't match the budget.

So, while production from Leo is a welcome sign that maybe this trade isn't so awful after all, it all comes down to if the Giants can land him long-term for a reasonable price. Overspending for a player with a single season of good numbers would be in the section of "What not to do" in Rebuilding an NFL franchise for Dummies.

The Giants have other fish to fry this offseason, like what to do with Gettleman and continuing to rebuild through the Draft. But as Williams continues producing, that priority will be moving up the to-do list.