WR Mike Williams To Sign With Jets

MARCH 23: Williams’ deal will ultimately be listed as a one-year, $10MM pact with up to $5MM via incentives, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB. Coming off an ACL tear, Williams earned a $3.3MM signing bonus and will get $8.3MM in guaranteed money.

MARCH 19: Mike Williams‘ Tuesday New York trip will end his free agency tour. The former Chargers starter has agreed to join the Jets on a one-year deal worth up to $15MM, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports.

The veteran wide receiver had booked meetings with the Panthers and Steelers, but after the Jets saw their Odell Beckham Jr. visit nixed, they will not let Williams leave the building without a contract. The team has been on the hunt for a big-name wide receiver since before last year’s trade deadline, and while more pieces may be coming, Williams represents a key part of the puzzle around WR1 Garrett Wilson.

Released by the Chargers just before the 2024 league year began, the 29-year-old receiver set up meetings with the Jets, Panthers and Steelers. His Charlotte and Pittsburgh trips were to follow this one. Williams has only played with Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks during his career. The former Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert target will not take a step back in quality — assuming another major injury does not occur, of course — with Aaron Rodgers set to target the former first-round pick next season.

Not dissimilar to 2022, the Jets had been connected to a slew of receiving options since they acquired Rodgers. Efforts to trade for Davante Adams, Tee Higgins and Mike Evans did not pan out, though the team was still exploring the trade market as of Sunday.

Its 2023 Beckham pursuit ended when the veteran wideout canceled his New York trip following a Baltimore agreement. Beckham remained on the Jets’ radar as of Tuesday afternoon, and while that may still be the case due to his relationship with Rodgers, Williams will give a team starved for a WR2-level target an option after its 2023 setup — largely hamstrung by QB issues following Rodgers’ Achilles tear — failed to deliver much of consequence.

The Chargers needed to trim more than $25MM from their payroll to move under the salary cap last week; Williams became the first domino to fall. The Bolts released the seven-year veteran months after his ACL tear. While the base value of Williams’ Jets deal is not known, he still generated a market despite finishing his past two seasons sidelined. A back fracture wrapped Williams’ 2022 season early, stripping Herbert of a key weapon ahead of a disastrous wild-card outing in Jacksonville.

While injuries have nagged Williams for most of his career, he has not been taken out of action too often. From 2018-21, Williams missed only three games in total. In 2022, a sprained ankle forced him out of action weeks before the back injury — sustained in a meaningless Week 18 game that became a lighting rod around Brandon Staley — ended his season. Williams suffered the ACL tear in Week 3, giving him more time to build up ahead of the 2024 season. The Jets will bet on the 6-foot-4 target, who has been one of this period’s best deep threats.

Chosen seventh overall in 2017, Williams has two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume. The Clemson alum led the NFL with 20.4 yards per catch in Rivers’ final Los Angeles season, and he reached a career-high 1,146 yards in 2021, helping Herbert become the AFC’s Pro Bowl starter. The Chargers did well to make Williams more than a long-range threat that year, with OC Joe Lombardi incorporating him more as a midrange weapon alongside Keenan Allen.

The Chargers had not ruled out re-signing Williams, but after seven years of the Williams-Allen tandem, the Bolts are moving on from both. They sent Allen to the Bears for a fourth-round pick last week. The Jets guaranteed Allen Lazard $22MM at signing, keeping the ex-Packer in the picture, but they traded Mecole Hardman — to wrap what turned out to be a messy tenure — and have Randall Cobb unsigned. While the Jets had Tyler Boyd on their radar, Williams represents a higher-ceiling prize at this rather crucial point on the team’s timeline.

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