The Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants have orchestrated the first major move of 2023 NFL trade deadline week. Seattle acquired defensive lineman Leonard Williams in exchange for a second-round pick in 2024 and a fifth-rounder in 2025. The teams announced the deal Monday. The Giants also retained a significant portion of Williams’ salary, so the Seahawks are responsible for only the balance of the veteran minimum.
Adding a force to our line.
We’ve agreed to terms in a trade for Leonard Williams! pic.twitter.com/zks77chKYD
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 30, 2023
Why they made the move
The Seahawks have been working to improve their pass rush for the past couple of weeks, according to league sources, exploring trade possibilities and signing free agent Frank Clark. The addition of Williams likely puts a bow on this mission.
The Seahawks have 26 sacks, which ranks fifth in the NFL, but general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll recognize the value of a high-octane pass rush after constructing the league’s best defense a decade ago on their way to two Super Bowl appearances. They also know this year’s team is capable of contending for an NFC title, while the division is there for the taking with the San Francisco 49ers on a three-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, the Giants were shopping Williams as a way to get out of the final year of his contract and recoup draft assets before the sides likely parted in the offseason. They suffered a gut-wrenching 13-10 loss to the Jets on Sunday to fall to 2-6 — last place in the NFC East and in current possession of a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
While the Giants’ surprising 6-1 start in 2022 propelled them into the playoffs, they’re 5-12-1 in their last 18 regular-season games. General manager Joe Schoen surely knows the roster still needs a lot of work to catch up to the Eagles and Cowboys in the division. Williams, who turns 30 in June, was unlikely to be part of the next true Giants contender.
Trade grade (Seahawks): A-minus
The Seahawks have been aggressive on the pass-rush front, and they got a disruptive player who should be reinvigorated within a talented defense. And though they coughed up plenty in draft compensation, Williams’ restructured contract will barely dent the salary cap. That in itself carries a lot of value.
Williams was at his best in a contract year in 2020, when he tallied a career-best 11.5 sacks, but he’s had only 10.5 sacks in 37 games since signing a three-year, $63 million contract in 2021. Of course, the Seahawks are banking on the belief Williams will find a spark on a better defense, especially with another contract on the horizon.
The Seahawks are young, athletic and talented on the back end of their defense. By putting Williams up front with Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, they should help Boye Mafe and Clark get after the quarterback with defensive backs Devon Witherspoon, Tariq Woolen and Jamal Adams attacking the ball.
They’ll need this defense to play at a high level to get through the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions and 49ers in the postseason.
Pete Carroll was asked what he likes about Leonard Williams.
— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) October 30, 2023
Trade grade (Giants): A-minus
A second-round pick, even if it will most likely land in the back third of the round, is a really solid return for a player who wasn’t in the Giants’ future plans. They were on the hook for the balance of his salary regardless, so eating the majority of it isn’t a deterrent for a team so far out of the playoff picture.
By early Monday, teams knew the Giants were shopping Williams, and they still got a quality pick for him. That’s not usually the case with veteran trades.
Pass rushers have also dominated the deadline discourse around the league. The Commanders have taken calls on Chase Young and Montez Sweat. The Panthers don’t intend to move Brian Burns, but it hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring. Danielle Hunter also has been the subject of trade talks, but it’s unclear what the Vikings will do now that quarterback Kirk Cousins is done with a torn Achilles. And the Patriots have Josh Uche on an expiring rookie contract.
It’s conceivable, depending on how the next day plays out, the supply of pass rushers actually outweighs the demand. By making this move Monday, the Giants got out in front of the potential rush and ensured they acquired a premium pick in the process.
(Top photo of Leonard Williams: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)
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