Chargers release star wide receiver Mike Williams

In a move that was expected, the Los Angeles Chargers released star wide receiver Mike Williams, a move that saved the team $20 million against the salary cap and helped the team get under the mandatory NFL teams salary cap number of $255.4 million dollars for each team for the 2024 season.

Williams caught 309 passes for 4,806 yards and 31 touchdowns in seven seasons with the Chargers. He was a deep threat despite not having great speed. In 2019, Williams caught 49 passes for 1,001 yards and a league leading 20.4 yards per catch. In 2021, Williams caught 76 passes for 1,146 passes and nine touchdowns. In college at Clemson, his head coach had the "Mike Williams rule."

"With Mike Williams, if there's only one (defender) on him, he's open," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Williams. "If there's two, they better be really tight on him." Williams has been that kind of receiver for the Chargers.

Williams battled injuries throughout his seven seasons with the Chargers, some of it due to his style of play. Williams is a physical receiver who really fights for the ball, which has led to some injuries. Williams missed six games as a rookie in 2017 with a back injury. He missed 14 games in 2023 with an ACL knee injury. He missed the 2022 playoff game with the Jacksonville Jaguars with a back injury.

Williams was the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and was the last player from the 2017 draft still on the roster. Running back Austin Ekeler made the roster in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. Ekeler recently signed with the Washington Commanders after seven seasons with the Chargers.

The only two remaining players from the 2017 Chargers squad are wide receiver Keenan Allen and edge rusher Joey Bosa. Allen is due a $5 million dollar roster bonus on Sunday, March 17th and Bosa is due a $7 million dollar roster bonus on Friday, March 15th. Cutting or trading Allen before Match 17th saves $23 million against the salary cap. Cutting or trading Bosa before March 15th saves $14 million against the salary cap.

The Chargers were able to sign three key free agents with the release of Williams and the restructuring of All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack's contract. The Chargers signed free agent running back Gus Edwards, a 240-pound running back who spent his first five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Edwards is coming off a career season in 2023, with 810 yards rushing, 13 rushing touchdowns, and 12 receptions for 180 yards, all career highs.

Edwards signed a very reasonable two-year deal for $6.5 million, with $3.375 million dollar guaranteed. Edwards gives the Chargers a tough, physical short yardage runner, something the team has been without for all seven seasons in Los Angeles.

The Chargers then added tight end Will Dissly, a free agent who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Seatle Seahawks. Dissly caught 127 passes for 1,421 yards and had 13 receiving touchdowns in six seasons for the Seahawks. But his real value is as a blocker. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound tight end was rated as the 3rd best run blocker in the NFL in 2023 by Pro Football Focus (PFF). He was rated the top pass blocking tight end in the NFL by PFF in 2023.

Dissly's contract is for three years at a total of $14 million, with a $4.5 million dollar signing bonus, and $10 million dollars guaranteed at signing. The Chargers are trying to establish a tough, physical running team under head coach Jim Harbaugh and General Manager Joe Hortiz. The acquisitions of Edwards and Dissly are a significant step in that direction and they both come at reasonable salaries for the team.

The Chargers re-signed safety Alohi Gilman for another two seasons for a total of $10.125 million, with a signing bonus of $4.5 million with a guarantee of $5.625 million dollars. Gilman was ranked as the 7th best safety in the NFL by PFF in 2023. Gilman had 73 tackles last season, along with two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, and ten passes defended. A very important re-signing for the Chargers defense.

The loss of Williams will force 2023 first round draft pick Quentin Johnston to become a productive wide receiver in 2024. Johnston struggled as a rookie in 2023. The Chargers have the 5th pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft and should grab a top receiver, either at tight end or at wide receiver. It hurts to lose Williams, but the Chargers still have quarterback Justin Herbert and that gives Charger fans hope in 2024.


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