The New York Jets have been among the NFL’s most active teams during the 2023 offseason, with their acquisition of quarterback Aaron Rodgers highlighting their roster moves over the past few months. But one item remains open on the Jets’ docket: a potential extension for star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who is projected to hit the open market next spring.
Quinnen Williams, New York Jets Reportedly ‘Not Close’ on Contract Extension
Last offseason, it was the NFL’s wide receivers who got paid. Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and A.J. Brown were traded before landing new contracts worth at least $25 million per year, while a host of other pass catchers — including Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf, and Deebo Samuel — all landed fresh deals with their respective clubs.
This year, the cash has shifted to the defensive tackle market. Jeffery Simmons slotted in as the league’s second-highest-paid interior defender — behind only Aaron Donald — after inking a four-year, $94 million pact with the Titans. Daron Payne was franchised by the Commanders before landing $22.5 million per year from Washington, while the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence later matched that annual value on his extension with New York.
And it wasn’t only extensions that moved the DT needle this offseason. Javon Hargrave received four years and $84 million from the 49ers, even though he’s already 30 years old. Dre’Mont Jones (Seahawks) and Zach Allen (Broncos) signed free agent contracts that slotted them in among the top 15 highest-paid defensive tackles.
Williams remains one of the last men standing on the interior, but the Jets are “not close” on a new contract, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN. As such, Williams skipped voluntary workouts with New York as he waits on an extension. The 25-year-old had hoped to get a deal done with Gang Green by the start of their offseason program.
“Everybody knows I’m a team guy, man,” Williams said. “But I do want to get a contract done before the offseason program. I do feel like I deserve to get a contract done before the offseason program just because I did everything right on the field and everything right off the field. Having the organization behind me just like I’m behind them to show that they really support me is a major thing for me.”
Meanwhile, general manager Joe Douglas has said all the right things about working out an extension with Williams. Jets ownership gave Douglas the “green light” to start negotiations with Williams earlier this year, per Brian Costello of the New York Post.
In February, Douglas said New York “had several good discussions” with Williams and his agent, Nicole Lynn. Prior to the draft, Douglas indicated talks were” trending in a good place” and described his outlook on a Williams deal as “hopeful and optimistic.”
Projecting a Quinnen Williams Contract Extension
After being selected third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams took a few seasons to live up to his draft billing. The Alabama alum was a steady presence during his first three years in the NFL, but No. 3 overall draft capital essentially required him to be a dominant force — which he became in 2022.
Williams posted 52 pressures last season, placing him ninth among defensive tackles between Simmons and Payne. He also put up a career-high 12 sacks and doubled his previous career-best with 28 quarterback hits.
Williams was named a 2022 first-team All-Pro, something no member of the Simmons/Payne/Lawrence/Hargrave cadre has ever accomplished. Additionally, he earned a first-place vote in last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race, enabling him to finish seventh.
All statistics and postseason honors aside, Williams’ most significant advantage is time. When a positional market gets new contracts at once, it pays to be the last player to sign. Simmons et al. have provided a floor for Williams and his agent as they consider offers from the Jets. Williams seems unlikely to come in under the $23.5 million per year Simmons landed from the Titans.
Meanwhile, it’s fair to dismiss Donald’s extension with the Rams as an anomaly. Los Angeles, trying to convince Donald not to retire after their Super Bowl win, ripped the three years and $57.3 million remaining on his deal and gave him a new three-year, $95 million pact. It was an unprecedented move that other teams won’t use as precedent, similar to how clubs are refusing to follow the Browns’ blueprint after they gave Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed contract.
Instead, a four-year deal worth $24 million annually makes the most sense for Williams and the Jets. That average annual value would place Williams just above Simmons while keeping the total value below $100 million. Williams should be expected to receive at least $60 million guaranteed, with roughly $48 million guaranteed for injury, skill, and cap purposes.
Williams is already guaranteed nearly $10 million under the terms of his 2023 fifth-year option. The Jets can bake that figure into Williams’ total guarantees, meaning they’d only need to guarantee another $38 million or so. Depending on how they structure the contract, New York could build in an escape route after 2025.
The Jets hold the leverage of the franchise tag next season, but they probably don’t want Williams to have a cap figure north of $20 million in 2024. Gang Green is already projected to be more than $40 million over the salary cap next year, and that’s without factoring in Rodgers’ contract, which has yet to be reworked in New York.
Additionally, Chris Jones is still waiting on an extension with the Chiefs as he enters his contract year in Kansas City. If Jones resets the defensive tackle market in the near future, the Jets might regret not having worked out a new deal with Williams sooner.