When defensive players get drafted high by the Jets, they almost always get asked by the press about facing Tom Brady and either sacking him or intercepting him. Leonard Williams was no different in 2015.
“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, I respect him as well,” Williams said the day after the Jets chose him No. 6 overall. “I feel like that would be a career highlight to get my first sack against someone that we have a rivalry against.”
Four seasons into his career, Williams has yet to register that sack of Brady and yet to prove he can be the pass rusher Jets fans hoped the team was getting when he was drafted. He has 15 career sacks in 61 games and has only twice registered multi-sack games. It is part of the Williams equation that makes his future with the Jets tough to read.
Williams, 24, has one more year remaining on his rookie contract. The Jets picked up his fifth-year option for 2019 at $14.2 million. Typically, players and their agents start talking about long-term contracts before that fifth season. That likely will happen this offseason with Williams. But should the Jets lock him up long term? Should they try to trade him? Should they wait until 2020 and decide then whether to let him walk as a free agent or use the franchise tag?
It is tough to get a read on what the Jets will do. The current leadership has always spoken highly of Williams, considering him a part of their young core. But the organization is in flux as coach Todd Bowles is expected to be fired and general manager Mike Maccagnan is not a lock to be back.
Whoever is in place to make the decisions on 2019 will have plenty of factors to weigh on Williams. He has been a steady player for the Jets. He is strong against the run and can be disruptive. But he is not dominant and he does not get to the quarterback enough. You want more from a player chosen sixth overall.
Williams could have made this decision easy with a dominant 2018 season. Instead, he has had a pedestrian year. He has 36 tackles, three sacks (two more that were wiped out by penalties), 19 quarterback hits and two passes defensed.
In Williams’ defense, he has never played with an edge rusher who would take attention away from him. The Jets coaches say he has been consistently double-teamed, which hurts his numbers.
An opposing coach who game planned for the Jets this year put it this way, “It all starts with stopping 92 [Williams] and 33 [Jamal Adams] when you face the Jets. We said get four hands on 92.”
On Wednesday, Williams admitted this season has not been as strong as he had hoped.
“I’m not like super-excited about the way it’s been going,” Williams told The Post. “I definitely feel like I’ve been showing flashes of being good and being able to be dominant. I think I just have to work on being consistent and see what it takes to be consistent.”
The two big unknown variables with the Williams decision is how much money will he be seeking and what he could fetch on the trade market.
The Rams’ Aaron Donald is the highest-paid 3-4 defensive end in the league at $22.5 million per year. Williams is not going to get anywhere close to that kind of contract. J.J. Watt ($16.7 million per) and Jurrell Casey ($15.1 million per) are the only other ends making more than $15 million a season.
Sam Darnold wants to turn strong Jets finish into 2019 springboard
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold showed on Sunday he’s hardly content…
With the salary cap rising, it would not be surprising if Williams seeks something like Muhammad Wilkerson got from the Jets in 2016, which came in at around $17 million per year with $37 million guaranteed.
In terms of trade value, if someone was willing to give the Jets a second-round pick, they might jump on it. They gave up this year’s second-round pick in the trade with the Colts to jump three picks in last year’s draft and would love to recoup that pick.
Williams said Wednesday he is not worried about the future.
“I feel like I can’t worry about that type of stuff,” Williams said. “I feel like if I worry about what I can control, then that stuff will come with it. I can’t control that, so I try not to worry about it. What I can control is my play and the way I carry myself and the way I prepare.”