It is officially the NFL Offseason, and that the New York Giants are about to make many moves. Before they can look outside the team, HC Joe Judge and GM Dave Gettleman need to make a big decision on the D-line: DE Leonard Williams or DT Dalvin Tomlinson?
First, I want to mention that it is possible that the Giants will not have to pick between the two. Though the 2021 cap space is projected to decrease to around $175 million, it is not yet confirmed. In fact, recently other rumors say that a different number, $195 million, is possible. If that were the case, the Giants would have enough room to re-sign both Williams and Tomlinson and still address other needs.
Secondly, even at the lower cap number, the Giants could still decide to re-sign both players. While it does require a few cuts (Tate, Solder, Toilolo, Zeitler?), those will likely happen regardless. The only problem then is that they would not be able to fill other holes like WR, EDGE, and CB2. Judge and Graham could potentially decide the two defensive linemen are worth it.
Now, despite that information, I will be evaluating this situation as though New York cannot re-sign both, for the sake of argument. So here is my view on the decision.
The Leonard Williams Argument
2020 Stats: 16 G, 57 TKL, 11.5 SK, 14 TFL, 30 QB hits, 1 FR
Expected Contract: 3-4 years, approx. $20m/yr
Why they should re-sign him: Leonard Williams broke out in 2020, benefiting from DC Patrick Graham’s elite system, which I covered in a previous article. Thus, it would be weird to allow another team to profit from the Giants’ successful player development. He is a dominant force on the field and a great leader and veteran presence. Defensive coordinators have a tough time game-planning around him and makes players around him better.
Why they should not resign him: Leonard Williams is likely to–deservedly–demand a lot of money, which the Giants do not necessarily have. There are many players on the market currently that could go for slightly less money yet still produce at a similar level. Williams also does not have a deep resume of success. He is just one year removed from a season with .5 sacks. Finally, many of his sacks came from the scheme, and the Giants may feel more comfortable signing a talented EDGE to create pure pressure.
The Dalvin Tomlinson argument
2020 Stats: 16 G, 49 TKL, 3.5 SK, 8 TFL, 10 QBH
Expected contracts: 2-4 years, approx. $13m/yr
Why they should re-sign him: Do not let the stats deceive, Tomlinson is a beast and has held the defense together the past few years. As Giants fans know, Gettleman puts a priority on stopping the run. That is the definition of Tomlinson’s game, as he is a nightmare for the opposing IOL and running backs. Both FA and the draft lack high-quality candidates outside of Tomlinson and Barmore, a DT for Alabama and projected top-15 pick, one of the biggest sure-things in this year’s draft. Even though Tomlinson is top 5-10 at his position, he will not need a huge sum of money to keep, as DT is typically not a high-salary position. Finally, signing Tomlinson does not prevent the signing of another high-quality FA, like WR Allen Robinson for example.
Why they should not re-sign him: One of the reasons DT’s do not typically receive big pay-days is because the position is usually semi-replaceable. Furthermore, tackles are normally not as impactful as an end or an edge (Aaron Donald excluded, of course). Though Tomlinson is great against the run, he is not an elite, disruptive, high-pressure interior defender like Donald or Chris Jones. Ultimately, it would be fair for the Giants to prioritize spending money on a more impactful position they lack.
This was actually much tougher than I expected. Williams and Tomlinson both deserve credit for being pretty irreplaceable talents.
Still, in the end, it is hard to support letting elite players walk. Therefore, if the Giants are forced to choose, I think they should re-sign DE Leonard Williams. Even though it would cost extra money, it is necessary to retain him. The Giants had a top-10 defense in 2020, and Williams deserves a lot of the credit. If New York wants to repeat their defensive dominance, they should prioritize re-signing Leonard Williams.