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NFL source details why Giants should brace for a fight if they tag Leonard Williams

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

INDIANAPOLIS – Dave Gettleman admitted the Giants are “discussing” the possibility of using either the franchise tag or the transition tag on Leonard Williams.

If they do, they also better be bracing for a fight.

If the Giants do use either tag on Williams, they are expected to tag him as a defensive tackle, and if they do, Williams’ camp will likely file a grievance claiming he should be tagged as a defensive end, according to an NFL source. Williams played both positions with the Giants and Jets last season, but being tagged as an end could earn him approximately $4 million more.

Gettleman declined to say whether he was discussing tagging Williams as a DT or a DE when he was asked by SNY at the NFL scouting combine on Tuesday. And when asked if he was expecting a fight if he tagged Williams as a DT, Gettleman said “I’ll leave that alone.”


It’s understandable why Williams would fight for the extra money, though, especially since he’d rather have a lucrative, long-term contract than a one-year tag. As a defensive tackle, Williams would be projected to get about $13.7 million under the transition tag (which is 120 percent of his current salary) or $15.5 million under the franchise tag, according to But as a defensive end, those numbers jump to $16.3 million for the transition tag and $19.3 million if he’s franchised.

But Williams’ situation is actually more complicated than that. He played last season under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract with the Jets. That called for a salary of $11.4 million, which was based on the position he played the most — defensive tackle. Had he played more defensive end, that salary would have been $14.2 million. And in that case, he would’ve been due $17 million this season if the transition tag is used.

According to Pro Football Focus, Williams took 466 snaps at defensive tackle last season and 255 at defensive end — and the distribution was fairly even across the two New York teams.

It seems doubtful Williams would be able to make a successful case, especially since history is not on his side. The only other time an NFL player challenged the position he was tagged at was in 2014 when Jimmy Graham was tagged by the Saints as a tight end and argued he should be considered a receiver. Graham’s case went to an independent arbitration, where he eventually lost.

It’s unclear if Williams will take it that far, though it does seem likely that he’ll get tagged if the Giants are unable to sign him to a long-term contract in the coming weeks. Gettleman sent a third- and a fifth-round draft pick to the Jets for Williams last October even though the Giants were already out of playoff contention. Even Gettleman knows he’ll “get killed” if he lets Williams walk away, since it would mean he threw away two picks for nothing.

Though Gettleman and Williams spoke at the end of the season and expressed their mutual desire to strike a deal, there had been no substantive talks as of a week ago, according to an NFL source. There was an expectation that the two sides would speak again at the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week. Gettleman, as is his policy, would not comment on any contract talks.

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