INDIANAPOLIS - Dave Gettleman admitted the Giants are "discussing" the possibility of using the franchise tag Leonard Williams.
If they do, they also better be bracing for a fight.
If the Giants do franchise Williams in the next few weeks, 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 $2 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."
The official numbers for the franchise and transition tags haven't been set by the NFL yet, but according to Overthecap.com, the franchise tag for a defensive tackle is projected to be about $15.5 million in 2020. However, Williams would actually get 120 percent of his current salary of $14.2 million, which works out to about $17 million.
The problem, though, is the projected franchise tag number for defensive ends is $19.3 million, according to Overthecap.com.
It's unclear if Williams would be able to make a successful case, though. 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. He also doesn't have history on his side, since only one player took a position fight over a tag all the way to arbitration. And when Jimmy Graham challenged the New Orleans Saints in 2014, claiming he should be considered a receiver instead of a tight end, he eventually lost.
Regardless, Williams does seem like a good bet to get tagged (the transition tag doesn't seem to be a great option, since that'll cost the Giants $17 million regardless of his position due to the "120 percent" rule). 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 "I'll get killed" if he lets Williams walk away, having thrown 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.
Teams can begin using the franchise and transition tags on Thursday. The deadline to use them is March 12.