NFL News & Analysis

New York Giants placing franchise tag on DI Leonard Williams

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) celebrates his sack of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) with linebacker Kyler Fackrell (51) in front of running back Leonard Fournette (28) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are placing the franchise tag on interior defensive lineman Leonard Williams, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

One of the surest bets in the class, Williams has graded between 70.0 and 82.0 in all six years of his career. He was the 19th-ranked player on PFF's free agency rankings.

Run defense is Williams' calling card, as he ranks in the 86th percentile in PFF run-defense grade since entering the league. His best work has come as a B- and C-gap defender.

Williams is an average pass-rusher, and even with a career-high 13 sacks this season, he's yet to break a 72.0 pass-rush grade for his career. Still, Williams has been one of the league's most valuable interior defensive linemen since 2015. His level of consistency is a plus as the giants continue to build around Daniel Jones.

PFF’s 2021 NFL free agency rankings offer three-year player grades, updated contract information, in-depth player analysis and PFF’s newly developed wins above replacement (WAR) metric for all of the top NFL free agents. Click here to see the full list.

What it means for the New York Giants

The Giants become the third team to utilize a second consecutive franchise tag on the same player, following the Broncos‘ decision to tag safety Justin Simmons and Washington‘s decision to use the tag on guard Brandon Scherff.

Williams and the Giants are reportedly still working toward a multi-year deal, but the $19.35 million tag buys New York some time while also presumably setting a floor on the per-year value of an extension.

The Giants acquired Williams via a trade with the New York Jets in 2019, costing them a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick. He recorded career-highs in pressures (62) and NFL sacks (11.5) in 2020.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Green Bay Packers tabled an offer for Giants nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson at the trade deadline. So, at this point, it may prove difficult to retain both Williams and Tomlinson, especially with 2019 first-round pick Dexter Lawrence developing into a strong player up front through two seasons.

The Giants have consistently addressed the interior of their defensive line over the last several years, which undoubtedly made the position group the strength of their roster. The only problem is that it is essentially the only strength on their roster.

What it means for Williams and the interior defender market

Williams was the top interior defender on the market by a good margin, especially once factoring in age. He ranks at No. 19 on PFF’s free agent board, with aforementioned teammate Dalvin Tomlinson the only other interior defender cracking the top 40.

If Broncos interior defender Shelby Harris hits the open market before agreeing to a deal in Denver, he may now have a few more suitors as the best option available to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the inside.

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