Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams signs franchise tender but final compensation in limbo

ByJordan Raanan ESPN logo
Thursday, April 23, 2020

New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams signed his franchise tag. The question now is whether he will be compensated as a defensive end or a defensive tackle, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Williams wants to be listed as a defensive end. It would be more lucrative for him if that were the case. The franchise tag for a defensive tackle is $16.1 million this year; the franchise tag for a defensive end is $17.8 million.

Williams has officially submitted his case to the NFL Players Association, a source tells ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. The NFLPA will file a grievance for Williams, and an arbitrator will then rule on his position. The Giants and Williams still have until July 15 to reach agreement on a long-term deal.

Signing the tender, even at the defensive tackle rate, does eliminate the possibility of it being rescinded. General manager Dave Gettleman has done that in the past. He pulled the franchise tag from cornerback Josh Norman in 2016, when they were with the Carolina Panthers.

Williams played eight games with the Giants after being traded from the New York Jets midway through last season, often as a defensive end in their 3-4 base defense. He played seven games with the Jets, who played a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.

Most of Williams' snaps still came at the traditional defensive tackle positions. He lined up pre-snap either as the left or right defensive tackle or nose tackle on 88% of his plays, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Just 81 of his 683 snaps with the Jets and Giants came outside as the traditional right or left defensive end or a linebacker.

Even with the Giants, only 21% of Williams' snaps came from what is considered the defensive end position.

Williams, 25, finished with 46 tackles and 0.5 sacks last season. He was set to become a free agent last month had the Giants not used a tag. They elected to use the franchise tag instead of the transition tag. Signing the tender allows Williams to now participate in the Giants' offseason program, which began virtually on Monday.

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

Gettleman was hoping Williams -- who was acquired in exchange for a third-round pick in this year's draft and a fifth-round selection in 2021 -- would provide a spark and be part of their long-term plans, even though the Jets were intent on moving on from their 2015 first-round pick. He's expected to team with Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson to form the nucleus of the Giants' defensive line this season.