The New York Giants traded draft capital for Leonard Williams last season despite him being an impending free agent, but it looks like they plan to make him prove himself as a long-term fixture on the defense before paying him long-term guaranteed money. New York assigned Williams with the franchise tag earlier this offseason and they now plan to wait out signing the former first-round pick to an extension, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The Giants have until Wednesday's deadline to sign Williams to a long-term deal after slapping the tag on him and can not sign Williams to an extension until after the season (if they don't do it before Wednesday's deadline). They are going to have Williams play 2020 on the franchise tag, a move the defensive tackle is reportedly compliant with. Both sides are on the same page -- Williams will play out the 2020 season on the tag.
The Giants are banking on Williams having success under a full offseason in their system, after a disappointing 2019 stint with the team that saw Williams record 26 tackles and 11 quarterback hits in eight games. Williams had a half-sack and a forced fumble in that stretch, recording 17 pressures. However, defenders of Williams will argue that his impact doesn't always show up in the box score stats.
The New York Jets decided to go in a different direction with Williams once Joe Douglas took over as general manager, trading him to the Giants for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick (which would have been a fourth-round pick if the Giants reached a long-term deal with Williams, but the tag kept the compensation at a fifth-round selection).
The Giants brought Williams in to store up the run defense with mixed results. They were fourth in yards per carry allowed (3.4), but were 20th in rush yards allowed (113.2) and still allowed 28.2 points (third-most in the NFL). New York has a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, who uses mostly a base 3-4, but has designated multiple schemes during his year as defensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins. Graham has shown a 6 and 4-man even fronts, which leaves room for multiple personnel packages.
Williams has 266 tackles and 17.5 sacks in his first five seasons in the league. He did make the Pro Bowl in 2016, which was his best season (seven sacks, two forced fumbles, 68 tackles), but has just 7.5 sacks in the three seasons since.
Williams will make $16.126 million on the franchise tag this season, the fifth-highest paid interior defensive lineman in the league. The Giants are gambling on the Williams trade to pay off, as a huge season will be enough to convince them to sign him to a massive extension.
The same holds true for Williams.