Keeping Leonard Williams with Giants not all about the money

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are committed. They traded for defensive lineman Leonard Williams and have already stated their intention to re-sign the 2015 New York Jets first-round pick before he hits the free-agent market.

At least that's the flare general manager Dave Gettleman sent from his bunker in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. He almost has to, considering the Giants sent significant assets to the Jets for his services.

The cost: a third-round pick in 2020 and a fifth-round pick in 2021. The fifth-rounder becomes a fourth if Williams signs an extension before the start of the new league year in March 2020.

So much for having any leverage in negotiations. At least there is some benefit to having Williams on the Giants' roster rather than having waited for him to become a free agent at the end of the year. The Giants get a head start in locking him up long term.

"Yeah, I think that is fair," Williams said.

There have been no negotiations yet. Those are supposed to begin after Thanksgiving. Williams told ESPN that he has not been approached yet but that he isn't concerned. He's the kind of person who lives in the now and hasn't spent an inordinate amount of time mulling his future.

What the midseason trade has done is allow Williams to get comfortable in his surroundings. He admitted that familiarity is important, and his top priority isn't collecting every last cent as a potential free agent.

"I think for me, I'm not the type of person that likes to bounce around a lot," Williams told ESPN. "I like to be stationary and comfortable on the team, and also like to win. I'd like to be able to stay on this team and hopefully be a part of the rebuilding process to get this team back to a winning program again.

"I don't think the money matters as much for me. Obviously, I want to get paid, as every player wants to. This is a business now. You clearly want to get paid for your play, but at the same time, I don't think that is the most important thing for me."

That is a good thing for the Giants because Williams would do well on the open market. He's 25 years old and has been to a Pro Bowl.

Multiple sources believe he will command at least $10 million a year on the open market. One NFL insider, despite not being impressed with Williams, still views the $8-12 million range as likely even with a lack of statistical production. Williams is looking for his first sack or tackle for a loss in 10 games this season with the Giants and Jets.

A potential comparison that was brought up for Williams was former Jets teammate Sheldon Richardson. He received a one-year, $8 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 before playing well and earning a three-year, $37 million deal this past offseason with the Cleveland Browns.

But it does Williams no good thinking about this now with five games remaining in the season, including a home tilt against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

"The perfect advice I'd give him, if I have to give any advice, is line up one play at a time, play as hard as you can and worry about that at the end of the year," said outside linebacker Markus Golden, who struggled to produce last season in his contract year. "It's hard. Real hard. But you've got to do it."

Of course, the salary cap rises every year, as does the price of free agents. Williams will not come cheap after producing six quarterback hits for the Giants, which has him tied with Dexter Lawrence for the most among their defensive linemen this season. And Williams has played in only three of their 11 games.

It should hardly be surprising that some in the Giants organization already believe Williams is their best defensive player. That can be looked at as both troubling (on a macro team scale) and complimentary (of the player).

Williams knows people are looking for him to get that splashy production. He described it as a fantasy game now where fans are more infatuated with statistics. But he's also aware it would be beneficial to turn some of these almosts into actual big plays.

"It would definitely help you, not hinder you, having sacks," Williams said.

The opportunities are there. The Giants are heavily invested in Williams and are putting him in premium playmaking positions. They've moved him around the line more than the Jets did this season.

This plays into the recruitment.

"It means a lot when they want you to be one of those guys to make the plays," Williams said.

The Giants' stratagem -- player evaluation aside -- seems to be working.

"Now that I've been here for a little bit," Williams said, "I want to stay."