RENTON — From afar, Pete Carroll always wanted a chance to have Leonard Williams on his team.
The affinity started when Williams was in college at Southern California, the place Carroll used to coach. It continued when Williams became a standout on the defensive line playing in the NFL in New York, first for the Jets and then the Giants.
“We watched him for a long time. I’ve known him for a good while — Trojan and all that — and he’s a fantastic football player,” Carroll said. “He’s the kind of guy can make a difference in games.”
Carroll got his wish on Monday when the NFC West-leading Seahawks acquired Williams from the struggling Giants for a pair of draft picks.
With Seattle sitting on top of its division and depth always a concern, Carroll’s squad landed one of the better players available ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
“He’s a terrific kid as a leader and competitor. Just the kind of guy you are fortunate to have on your team,” Carroll said.
The cost for Seattle is not cheap. The Seahawks (5-2) will send a second-round choice in 2024 and a fifth-rounder in 2025 to the Giants (2-6). The tradeoff for the draft capital is New York picking up most of the base salary owed to Williams for this season, leaving Seattle to pay just the prorated veteran minimum the rest of the way.
Williams had a $32 million cap hit this season, the highest on the Giants roster. Seattle does have two third-round picks in 2024, softening the blow of giving up the second-rounder.
Williams still has to pass his physical, which is expected Tuesday.
Adding Williams is the second move Seattle has made in the past week to add to its defensive line. The Seahawks reunited with veteran defensive end Frank Clark last week after Uchenna Nwosu was lost for the regular season with a pectoral injury in Week 7 against Arizona.
Williams will likely step into a rotation with Dre’Mont Jones, Mario Edwards Jr. and Jarran Reed on Seattle’s defensive front. Reed in particular has played a lot of snaps as a shaded nose tackle through the first seven games, and the Seahawks have wanted to get more pressure with the interior of their defensive line.
Ultimately, adding Williams will make that group deeper and give the Seahawks the flexibility to use the veteran in different spots on the defensive line.
The addition of Williams continued Seattle’s remodel of its defensive line from last year after it was a clear focus in the offseason. The Seahawks brought back Reed, signed Jones and Edwards to free agent deals and spent draft picks on nose tackle Cameron Young, edge rusher Derick Hall and big defensive end Mike Morris. The Seahawks took a hit to their depth when Morris was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury after Week 1.
“Trying to get better and help our team, and this is one of the late opportunities to do something like that,” Carroll said.
The Giants were expected to challenge for a second straight playoff berth entering the season, but they have been beset by injuries on their offense line and at quarterback this season and the offense is among the worst in the league.
New York’s record made it a seller at the deadline and Williams has been playing well lately, starting seven games. He blocked a field-goal attempt against Washington a week ago Sunday, had 21 tackles and had been steady against the run.
A nine-year veteran, Williams started 53 of 61 regular-season games and two playoff games with the Giants after being acquired from the Jets in October 2019. He was the No. 6 overall draft pick by the Jets in 2015 and played 71 games for them.
Williams was selected a team captain in 2022 and 2023 and was twice the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in the final five weeks of the 2021 season, the first time against Seattle.
With the Giants, he had 230 tackles, 22 1/2 sacks, including a career-high 11 1/2 in 2021. He also had 162 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.