INDIANAPOLIS – When Dave Gettleman traded with the Jets for Leonard Williams in late October, he said the "goal is to sign him long-term." Five months later, the Giants general manager knows what it will look like if they don't bring Williams back when free agency opens March 18.
"Oh, absolutely," he said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I'll get killed. I'll get killed. I have thick, rhino hide."
The landscape of the organization – and the NFL – has changed since Gettleman made his original declaration.The Giants have a new head coach, and the league is working out a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. All of these moving parts swirl around the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, where the draft is far from the only pressing matter.
If the Giants do things right in March, they will be set up for April's draft.
"We're going to take the best player," Gettleman said. "We're going to evaluate them, take the best player. That's what it is. I've said unrestricted free agency puts you in a position, hopefully if it works out for you, puts you in a position to take the best player. That's what we'll do."
As for the 25-year-old Williams, Gettleman said that tagging him is being discussed, not wanting to comment further on his or any other player's contract negotiation. March 10 is the deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players, which may be the next outcome for the top-tier pass rushers in the 2020 free agency class. "I really believe that," Gettleman said.
Williams is one of the many open-ended scenarios that Joe Judge walked into when he took over as head coach. Together, he and Gettleman will try to find a balance between youth and experience on the roster.
On one hand, Judge said youth is a strength because it "gives you time to work with guys and time to mold guys." On the other, you need leaders. When in doubt, just grab the best player you can to help your team.
"Here's the deal, you don't sign older players to coach the younger players," Judge said. "I have four kids. I'm not letting a 14-year-old raise a six-year-old. It's not happening. You don't sign older players thinking, 'This guy is going to teach the younger player how to be a pro.' That's not how it happens. The way they can help that young player develop is that maybe their experience with communication or what they can see throughout a game plan may help the younger player play faster.
"Maybe it takes a little bit more off that younger player's plate, that now they can go ahead and play more aggressive. You don't bring in older players thinking that they're the missing piece of the puzzle, now they put you over the hill. You don't sign older players thinking they're going to develop the culture on your team. That's our job as coaches. That's our job. We're going to look to sign players that help the team perform better because they're good football players. The age of that will vary."