Mike Williams landing spots: Chargers release WR to save $20 million against salary cap



The Los Angeles Chargers are cutting ties with longtime No. 2 receiver Mike Williams — for now, the team announced on Wednesday. According to CBS Sports lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones, the Chargers are interested in bringing him back on a different deal. 

The move will save the Chargers, who were $27 million over the cap at the start of the day on Wednesday, $20 million on their books. Williams was set to draw a base salary of $17 million and a $3 million roster bonus and count for a total of $32.5 million on the cap, but will instead carry a dead cap charge of $12.5 million.

Williams was a first-round pick back in 2017, and served for most of his time with the team as the No. 2 wideout behind Keenan Allen. Operating mostly as a deep threat complement to Allen, he had over 1,000 yards twice between 2019 and 2022. He tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2023 season and missed the rest of the year. 

The Chargers are likely not done making changes, as they still have Allen and Joey Bosa carrying massive cap hits, while Khalil Mack has already agreed to restructure his contract to remain with the team, according to ESPN. His cap hit will drop significantly from the $38.5 million for which he was set to hit the books, potentially affording the Chargers an opportunity to make a few moves in free agency.

Even if they bring Williams back on a new deal, it’s likely that they will look to add to their receiver corps as he is coming off a major injury, Allen is getting closer to the end of his career, and 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston was a major disappointment as a rookie. 

Under new head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, it wouldn’t be surprising if they looked for receivers who are, like Williams, on the bigger side and good at blocking, as well as winning on downfield routes. 

Let’s take a look at a few potential landing spots for Williams.

With Marquise Brown still on the free agent market, the Cardinals are extraordinarily thin at wide receiver. They figure to add one early on in the draft, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be looking to add talent in free agency as well. Williams at his best could provide the Cards with a similar perimeter ball-winner to what they had with DeAndre Hopkins. (Hopkins is much more versatile, but Big Mike could replicate that skill set.)

Chicago also seems likely to add receiver help early in the draft, but with Darnell Mooney leaving in free agency, the Bears still need to do more to give their (likely) No. 1 overall pick quarterback help alongside D.J. Moore. Moore’s versatility, plus Williams’ value as a possession receiver and deep threat, could allow the Bears to go in any number of directions with the type of receiver they target in the draft.

The Lions have a pair of elite underneath/over-the-middle options in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta. They have a burner in Jameson Williams. What they don’t have, is what Williams provides: a big-bodied ball-winner and contested-catch artist. 

The Chiefs seem pretty unlikely to spend up for a wide receiver. They never really got in the mix for Hopkins last year, for example. But if Williams wants to go play with the best quarterback in the game, he could give the Chiefs an interesting complement to Rashee Rice and Travis Kelce, providing a skill set that they haven’t really had over the past couple of years — even as they won back-to-back Super Bowls.

The Pats still remain in the mix for Calvin Ridley, as of this writing, but if they strike out, they could turn their attention to Williams. They are in desperate need of talent at wide receiver, whether their wideouts are catching passes from the recently signed Jacoby Brissett or whomever the team drafts with the No. 3 overall pick.

The Giants, like the Patriots, really, really need to upgrade their pass-catching corps. Especially with Darren Waller still considering retirement. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s offense took a significant step backward last season and has already lost a top pass-catching option in running back Saquon Barkley. If Waller calls it a career as well, the cupboard with really be barren. Williams can help provide stability.

Assuming Aaron Rodgers spends 2024 playing football and not running for Vice President of the United States, the Jets will want to give him more to work with than what he would have had last season. He didn’t play with Rodgers in Green Bay so the QB himself might not be interested, but the organization should be.





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