This could take a while.
Unless the mandated NFL deadlines are altered, the Giants have until July 15 to strike a long-term deal with defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Or else, he plays on the one-year franchise tag of $16.1 million, which is not a scenario either side wants.
There is absolutely no impetus for Williams to get anything done right now, and the Giants, knowing the time-tested truth that deadlines spark urgency, are willing to wait things out with Williams into the summer.
Nothing that transpired around Williams, to this point, surprised the Giants. His agent, Roosevelt Barnes, the president of the football division at Independent Sports & Entertainment, often is willing to allow situations to play out over the course of time. So, the Giants did not anticipate a quick-and-easy signing, despite general manager Dave Gettleman stating Williams expressed to him he is happy with the Giants and wants to stay.
Williams, acquired Oct. 28 in a trade with the Jets, sent out mixed messages down the stretch of the season. He said he preferred to remain in the area, then expressed his desire to test his worth on the market. He also said he wants to go somewhere he can win.
In most years, there is no rush for any player to sign the franchise tag because it takes any leverage away from the player. Displeasure with the tag and the desire for a lucrative long-term commitment leads to players staying away from their teams, as they are not allowed at the facility until they sign the tag. This often creates an undesirable situation — the team going about its offseason workout program and minicamps with the tagged player absent. Out of sight but not out of mind.
This clearly is not most years. There is not going to be any semblance of a normal NFL offseason. The Giants, based on having a new head coach, were set to open up their offseason program April 6, a full two weeks earlier than teams with returning head coaches. These dates are now meaningless, as far as on-site player gatherings. Williams will not be missing any bonding or camaraderie usually inherent in these offseason sessions, as there will not be normal sessions. The leverage an agent has — my guy is not showing up — is not applicable this year.
Working in Williams’ favor is that Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham envision Williams as part of the solution, this season and beyond. Though he already is a five-year NFL veteran, Williams is so young (he turns 26 on June 20) that he definitely can be part of the middle-aged (in NFL terms) nucleus on defense that now includes free-agent additions James Bradberry and Blake Martinez, both 26.
Judge and Graham are all about players who provide multiple options, and Williams offers this to the Giants, no matter if Graham leans more heavily on a four-man or three-man defensive front.
Playing in 2020 for $16.1 million is not debilitating for Williams. Any new deal struck with the Giants is not likely to average $16 million a year, so if he plays for that this season, “now they’ve set a precedent for what the new floor is,” an NFL player agent told The Post. If Williams plays for $16.1 million, that is what he is worth, according to the market, and that could be a starting point in any new negotiation. Getting him signed before this season would not cost as much on a per-year average.
“The Giants don’t have to do anything,” the agent said. “They’re going to pay him a very fair wage, and he’s gonna play under it and they’ll revisit it. The cap’s gonna go up, and if they love him and they have to pay more, they will. This is always a good situation for the player long term, if they’re really good and they don’t get injured.
“He’ll get a really solid deal if they keep him after this or he’ll go to the market knowing the Giants valued him at $16 million. If he gets $10 million [average] it would still be $26 million in guaranteed money in two years.”
Jadeveon Clowney remains unsigned, and his deal, whenever it materializes, could affect how Williams views his worth. Ndamukong Suh is returning to the Buccaneers for a reported $8 million for the 2020 season.
Williams could take a defiant stance and insist he will not play on the tag — though for $16 million and the chance to hit the market at the age of 26, why would he? That would complicate matters. The Giants prefer to get something done long term, but realize this is unlikely to be rectified any time soon.