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Gettleman: Leonard Williams' franchise tag was 'prudent' move 


Perhaps the best way to describe the life of a general manager in the public eye is "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Handling the scrutiny is right near the top of job requirements.

How Giants general manager Dave Gettleman deals with that aspect of his position: If it's in the best interest of the organization, do it. If not, don't do it.

Leonard Williams is a good case in point.

Last month, the Giants placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the defensive tackle for whom they sent the Jets two draft choices – a third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and a second choice that is a fifth-rounder in 2021 – midway through last season. Williams was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the NFL's new business year on March 18.

"Really what it came down to was we felt good about our cap space," Gettleman said Monday on a conference call with Giants reporters. "We felt for what Leonard brings to the table and for our team, it was more prudent to put the franchise tag on him."

A franchise tag is essentially a one-year deal with a salary based on the NFL average of the top five at his position. It also grants a window to negotiate a long-term contract. If there is no agreement before July 15, Williams will play the 2020 season under the one-year deal. If Williams signs a contract with another team, the Giants will receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

In the meantime, Gettleman doesn't anticipate a distraction for the team, nor will he discuss the timing of contracts.

"I think we'll be okay," he said. "I always think about bad things because, in my opinion, one of the biggest responsibilities I have is to eliminate distractions and let the coaches coach and the players play. You can't guarantee anything in this life, but we have gotten to know Leonard really well and I feel really comfortable with the decision."

The sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Williams has played in 79 games with 75 starts. His career numbers include 266 tackles (136 solo), 17.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes defended.

Williams, 25, in addition to 2017 second-round draft choice Dalvin Tomlinson, 2018 third-round selection B.J. Hill, 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence and free-agent addition Austin Johnson, gives the Giants a talented rotation of young defensive linemen.

When Gettleman executed the trade for Williams in late October, he said the "goal is to sign him long-term." At the NFL Combine five months later, Gettleman admitted what it would look like if they didn't bring back the defensive tackle.

"Oh, absolutely," he said in Indianapolis. "I'll get killed. I'll get killed. I have thick, rhino hide."

This is nothing new for Gettleman, a veteran with more than 30 years in the NFL as a scout and general manager.

"Well, part of the tight rope that I walk on is short-term and long-term," Gettleman said. "Part of the long-term is we have some good, young players right now. We've got Dalvin Tomlinson, (Evan) Engram and (Jabrill) Peppers. We have to make decisions on them. They're some good, young players. After another year, you guys are going to be banging on me about Saquon (Barkley).

"As I used to tell the guys down in Charlotte (Gettleman was the Panthers' general manager from 2013-17), when you wouldn't spend all your money in free agency, I'd say, 'Listen, you're going to kill me about this? Well, you're going to double kill me when we don't have money to extend Luke Kuechly or Cam Newton or whomever.' It's a collaborative decision we make as we talk about how we're moving forward. Right now, this is the decision we made. We're just going to move forward the way we are now."

View photos of defensive lineman Leonard Williams.