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Giants change course with franchise tag on Leonard Williams

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The Giants would not be placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Leonard Williams if they did not believe they will eventually get a long-term deal done with him.

That is the upshot of what is going down on Tuesday. The Post confirmed the Giants are expected to designate Williams, for the second consecutive year, as their franchise player in order to keep him off the open market, with NFL free agency beginning March 15. The team, though, has no intention of having Williams play on the $19.4 million tag this season. He is expected to command a deal worth more than $18 million per year but his salary cap number in a long-term deal would be far less than the $19.4 million he would cost on the cap as the franchise player.

The Post reported Monday the Giants were unlikely to use the tag on Williams. That was the thinking inside the building, but things change. The team always knew it was an option, as there was every intention to keep Williams as a building block for their defense. Negotiations are ongoing and the hope — and expectation — from the Giants is a deal gets done. By placing the franchise tag on Williams, there is no immediate urgency to get something done before the start of free agency. The Giants have until July 15 to work out a new contract with Williams, or else he plays for $19.4 million this season.

The Giants used the franchise tag on Leonard Williams
The Giants used the franchise tag on Leonard Williams
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The challenge of tagging a player is that the salary cap space must be made available. This means the Giants by March 17, the start of the league year, must be at least $19.4 million under the cap of $180 million. The deadline to tag players is Tuesday, unless the league moves back that deadline. The Giants were believed to be around $10 million under the cap, but there could be renegotiations of existing contracts that are taking place behind closed doors to provide more cap space.

Williams turns 27 on June 20 and has been a remarkably durable player, first for the Jets and the past year and a half for the Giants. Williams in 2020 set career highs in sacks (11.5), tackles for loss (14) and quarterback hits (30)

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