Mike Williams (Clemson)

AFC West Notes: Williams, Raiders, Broncos

As cut day approaches, let’s take a look at the latest news coming out of the AFC West:

  • As Hard Knocks viewers observed, Mike Williams suffered a shoulder injury while diving for a pass in practice. While Williams was said to be out “for a while,” Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen noted recently the fourth-year wideout may well return for Week 1. “Mike’s gotta be ready to play,” Steichen said, via the Orange County Register’s Gilbert Manzano (on Twitter). “I think Mike has got that mindset to be ready to play. We look forward to having him on September 13.” A thin Bolts receiver depth chart — beyond WR1 Keenan Allen — increases the importance of Williams returning.
  • Rookie Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette suffered a setback recently. The first-round pick sustained a thumb fracture, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This will require Arnette to wear a soft cast on his injured hand, which he did at one point with the Buckeyes. The Raiders are counting on Arnette to play a key role in their secondary this season.
  • One of Mike Williams‘ ex-Chargers receiver teammates will not play this season. The Raiders placed Tyrell Williams on IR this week, ending his second season with the team. Tyrell Williams suffered a torn shoulder labrum for the second time as a pro, and Jon Gruden said an attempt to play through this malady would have required Williams to wear a movement-restricting harness (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur). With a Williams cut saving the Raiders $11MM-plus next year, he looms as a likely 2021 release.
  • Although Demar Dotson operated as the Buccaneers’ starting right tackle for the past eight seasons, his Broncos signing does not mean he will stay a first-stringer. The current Denver plan is for Elijah Wilkinson to again fill Ja’Wuan James‘ position, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes. Dotson would then play a swing role behind Wilkinson and embattled left tackle Garett Bolles. Whether Wilkinson starts in Week 1 or not, the Broncos will enter a seventh straight year with a different right tackle to open a season.

West Notes: Williamses, Broncos, Fans

The Chargers suddenly have an issue at wide receiver. Already carrying a thin depth chart beyond Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Bolts now have just Allen and not much else in the way of proven targets healthy. Williams is battling a shoulder injury, one that Anthony Lynn said will keep the 2017 first-rounder “out for a while,” Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. As of Monday, Williams was expected to be ready for the Chargers’ Week 1 game. But Lynn said Tuesday he is not sure that will be the case. The former Clemson standout battled injuries in college and has frequently dealt with setbacks as a pro. But he has mostly been available for the Bolts, having played in 31 regular-season games over the past two seasons. The Chargers may well pursue receiver help via free agency soon.

Here is the latest from the West divisions, moving first to a former Chargers receiver:

  • Tyrell Williams will try to play through some familiar pain this season. The Raiders wideout suffered a torn shoulder labrum, but as of now, the veteran is not envisioning a prolonged absence, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). After a multi-week rest period, Williams will attempt to play despite this ailment. Shoulder issues have become chronic for the ex-Charger. He played four games despite a labrum tear in 2016 and played through this issue in the same right shoulder as a senior at Western Oregon in 2014. But Williams is not a lock to finish the season, with his agent informing NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link) surgery may be on the table if the shoulder “continues to dislocate.”
  • Only two Broncos defenders remain from the team’s Super Bowl champion unit. Along with Von Miller, linebacker Todd Davis is still with the team. The latter, however, is currently out with a calf injury, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Davis missed most of the Broncos’ 2019 training camp with a calf malady. Denver, which just lost rookie linebacker Justin Strnad for the season, did not do much at linebacker this offseason and is again counting on Davis to be a starter.
  • SoFi Stadium will debut next month, but fans will not be permitted to watch those games. The Chargers and Rams will not have fans at home games “until further notice,” the teams announced. The 49ers will take a similar route. No fans will attend their Week 1 game against the Cardinals. With California being one of the most cautious states during the pandemic, this is certainly not unexpected.
  • Possessing one of the NFL’s premier home-field advantages, the Seahawks will not have the luxury of fans creating that edge for them for a while. The team will not have fans in the stands for at least its first three home games. Seattle’s first three home games are scheduled to occur in Week 2 (Patriots), Week 3 (Cowboys) and Week 5 (Vikings). The NFL will not regulate each team’s fan policy, leaving it up to teams and cities to determine stadium capacities this season.

Chargers To Exercise Mike Williams’ 2021 Option

The Chargers will exercise their 2021 fifth-year option on wide receiver Mike Williams, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link).

Because Williams was a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft, his fifth-year option salary will be equal to that of the 2020 transition tag number for wideouts. That figure comes out $15.68MM, so Williams will see quite an increase over his 2019 cap charge of $6.374MM.

Williams’ fifth-year option will be guaranteed for injury only, so the Chargers will have the option to release him at the end of the 2020 campaign, provided he’s not dealing with medical questions. Starting in 2022, fifth-year options will become fully guaranteed, but Williams is part of the last draft class without that level of financial protection.

After barely contributing as a rookie, Williams posted 43 receptions for 664 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018. While his receiving yardage (barely) cleared the 1,000-yard threshold in 2019, Williams was hit by touchdown regression, and only found the end zone twice.

Depending on how Los Angeles handles’ its quarterback situation, Williams will be catching passes from either Tyrod Taylor or first-round pick Justin Herbert in 2020. He’ll be part of a pass-catching group that also includes Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Fisher, Chargers, Abram

The Chiefs will be down one of their top players Sunday, with Tyreek Hill out for the foreseeable future. But they now have another offensive cornerstone player questionable because of a late-week injury. Eric Fisher suffered a groin injury during Kansas City’s Friday practice and is now questionable, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The former No. 1 overall pick has not missed a start since his rookie season, in 2013, so it will look a bit strange if he is not manning his left tackle post in Oakland. The Chiefs have former Browns first-rounder Cameron Erving as a possible backup option; Erving did not play last week in Jacksonville. They also have former guard-tackle starter Jeff Allen on their bench and traded Carlos Hyde for Texans tackle Martinas Rankin.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Mike Williams played 16 games last season after an injury-plagued rookie year, but the 2017 top-10 pick has run into knee trouble. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said (via ESPN.com’s Eric Williams, on Twitter) the wideout starter will be a game-time decision against the Lions. The Bolts are thinner at receiver than they were last season, with Tyrell Williams having defected to the Raiders. But they still have Travis Benjamin, however, and brought back Dontrelle Inman. Both backups have contributed to Chargers aerial success during their time in southern California.
  • Who would say no if the Chargers and Redskins discussed a swap of holdout talents? The Chargers are not expected to have Melvin Gordon until at least midway through the season, and Trent Williams has shown no signs of ending his holdout. The latter has shown no interest in playing for the Redskins again, however, while Gordon is open to suiting up in Los Angeles this season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explores this hypothetical, which would include the left tackle-deficient Bolts acquiring a player with two years left on his deal. One season remains on Gordon’s rookie pact, which the Chargers are no longer renegotiating.
  • Johnathan Abram‘s season is almost certainly over, but the rookie Raiders safety received some good news. Abram’s surgery revealed he had only suffered a torn rotator cuff, not a torn labrum, which will limit his rehab time to five or six months, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Gates, Rivers, Chiefs

Despite losing Hunter Henry to yet another serious injury, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn did not seem optimistic on a potential reunion with Antonio Gates, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN. “I have not been in contact with Antonio,” Lynn said. “I’m not sure what his situation is.”

After Henry’s injury last year, Gates was brought back to the only organization he’s ever known, serving mostly in a backup role. Appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers, Gates totaled 28 receptions for 333 yards, with only two touchdowns.

In the interim, the Chargers seem content with expanding the roles of tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin while Henry recovers from his injury. Green is coming off a lackluster 2018 campaign, where he hauled in 19 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, while appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers. Despite this, he is expected to start, with Culkin serving in a back up role.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • For the second straight day, wide receiver Mike Williams was absent from Chargers practice, and is not looking good for Sunday’s game against the Lions, according to Eric D. Williams. Lynn has been concerned about the knee of Mike Williams, and another missed practice tomorrow would not bode well for his chances of suiting up this weekend.
  • On the most recent edition of the RapSheet + Friends Podcast, quarterback Philip Rivers spoke with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport about a number of topics, including his current contract. “I really just feel at peace about that. Tom [Telesco] and I had really good conversations throughout the last couple months. I think it’s sincere, the both of us, really desire I’m still a Charger in 2020,” Rivers told Rapoport. “I think that sincerity will make it all work out. Had it worked out before the regular season got started, I’d have been fine with it, but it didn’t. Shoot, hey let’s just wait and it kinda worked best for both sides to do that. I really feel good about it. I’m in a good place.” Rivers is in the final year of a four-year, $83.25 million contract extension he signed in August 2015.
  • In an effort to create cap space, Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher‘s contract was restructured, which included the conversion of his $9.54MM base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will be prorated from 2019 to 2021, dropping his 2019 cap hit to about $6.4MM, according to Yahoo Sports’ Terez A. Paylor. Paylor also reports that linebacker Anthony Hitchens‘ restructure, which included the conversion of $5.6MM of his base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will also be prorated from 2019 to 2022, created roughly $4.2MM in cap room.

West Notes: Hawks, Brown, Raiders, Bolts

Pete Carroll said the Seahawks indeed looked into Antonio Brown once the Raiders released him on Saturday, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN. Carroll said he and GM John Schneider always communicate on potential moves but added, “Not everything is always as it seems and you’ve got check into stuff and figure out what’s going on.” Carroll also gave the impression that a stronger Seahawks pursuit of the four-time All-Pro may not have mattered, indicating Brown was intent on signing with the Patriots. “He was headed to New England. He was going,” Carroll said. The Seahawks and Browns were the two other teams mentioned as interested in Brown.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • More than a year after pleading guilty to insider trading, Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks has still not been sentenced and will not be any time soon, according to Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith. Kendricks’ sentencing, which has already been delayed for nine months, was delayed again and is now scheduled for November 21. Kendricks started for the Seahawks this past Sunday against the Bengals, tallying seven tackles (one for loss).
  • Jon Gruden scoffed when asked about Brown’s lawsuit, as Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Authentic relays (Twitter link). “I’m not aware of anything,” Gruden said. “If you want to ask about him you can call his employer.” The civil suit surfaced three days after Brown agreed to terms with the Patriots.
  • Adding to the Chargers’ injury woes, Anthony Lynn said today that he is concerned about the knee of wide receiver Mike Williams, ESPN’s Adam Schefter relays (Twitter link). Earlier today, it was reported that tight end Hunter Henry had suffered a tibia fracture to his left knee and would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. The Bolts are already without starting left tackle Russell Okung and All-Pro safety Derwin James. Williams dealt with injury trouble as a rookie but played in 16 games last season.
  • Seahawks first-round pick L.J. Collier returned to practice today for the first time since spraining his ankle early in camp. Carroll said the TCU defensive end product has a chance to make his debut Sunday against the Steelers, Henderson adds. The Seahawks stand to have their entire defensive line healthy soon, with Ziggy Ansah also on the verge of making his Seattle debut. Ansah was limited Wednesday.

Extra Points: Haden, Giants, Bolts, Jaguars

No extension discussions have commenced between Joe Haden and the Steelers, but that seems to be where this is headed. After a pre-draft report indicated a Haden re-up could be in the cards this year, the veteran cornerback said he wants to re-sign with the Steelers. Haden expects conversations to take place when or around the time the Steelers report for training camp July 25, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac also anticipating extension talks at that point. Haden struggled with injuries and inconsistency at the end of his Browns tenure but has done well to stabilize one of the Steelers’ cornerback spots. Signing for three years and $27MM in 2017, Haden is going into his age-30 season. The Steelers, though, do not appear to have reservations about paying him for his early-30s seasons, per Dulac. Due largely to being an old-CBA first-rounder, Haden has earned more than $100MM in his career.

Let’s look at where some other teams stand exiting minicamp week:

  • After two years either marred by injuries or featuring constraints by his role, Mike Williams expects his usage rate to spike in 2019. The Chargers are thinner at wide receiver but have their 2017 first-round pick set to pick up the slack after Tyrell Williams‘ departure. “My role is going to expand with Tyrell leaving. I’m looking forward to that,” Williams said, via Chargers.com. “I feel I’m going to get a lot more opportunities than I did last year.” Williams saw the third-most snaps among Bolts wideouts last year (732, more than 100 fewer than Tyrell Williams) but still caught 10 touchdown passes (after not scoring as a rookie).
  • The Jaguars will not see their full receiving corps available for a while. Marqise Lee missed all of last season and is not expected to return until nearly the end of training camp, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes. Lee led the 2016 Jaguars in receiving and posted 702 yards in 2017, but a severe knee injury wiped out his 2018 slate. He joins Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and 2018 second-rounder D.J. Chark in a receiving corps that brings questions about the cogs’ roles.
  • An injury spoiled Jon Halapio‘s first season as the Giants‘ center starter, but it appears he stands to return to the role he held before going down last September. The former sixth-round pick started two games last season but saw the bulk of the first-team reps during Big Blue’s offseason work, with Pat Shurmur indicating (via the New York Post’s Jared Schwartz) the sixth-year blocker is back at 100%. Spencer Pulley graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 26 center last season; he mixed in with the Giants’ first-stringers this offseason.

AFC West Notes: A. Smith, Broncos, M. Williams

After jumping out to a 5-0 start this year, the Chiefs have lost four of their last five games, making themselves vulnerable to the surging Chargers and even the Raiders in the AFC West. The team’s offensive struggles have contributed to that swoon, and quarterback Alex Smith has fallen off a bit after a torrid first half. He is coming off a miserable performance in Kansas City’s loss to the lowly Giants last week, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Chiefs would only turn to rookie first-rounder Patrick Mahomes if Smith were to get hurt. Smith will remain under center the rest of the year, though Kansas City still plans to shop him in the offseason as it prepares to usher in the Mahomes era.

Now for more notes from the AFC West:

  • New Chiefs CB Darrelle Revis will likely make his Kansas City debut next week, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • Paxton Lynch is back under center for the Broncos, and Rapoport (video link) says they want him to start the rest of the year so they can fairly evaluate what they have in last year’s first-rounder. The team will run a much simpler offensive scheme for Lynch than what it employed under former OC Mike McCoy, and Lynch has been encouraged to simply do what he does best, which is run around and improvise.
  • We learned earlier today that the Raiders are likely to fire OC Todd Downing at season’s end, and that McCoy is an obvious candidate to replace him. Within that story, we cited another La Canfora article in which the CBS scribe reported that the McCoy firing might have been just the tip of the iceberg for the Broncos. He suggests that there is speculation that head coach Vance Joseph could be out after just one year on the job, and at the very least, that Denver could shake up other parts of its coaching staff.
  • Broncos GM John Elway has taken a lot of heat for his club’s 3-7 record in 2017, but Mike Klis of 9News.com says that criticism is largely unwarranted. In an interesting piece that pits Elway’s draft results against those of his long-tenured colleagues, Elway comes out near the top of the heap of NFL general managers, which makes Klis believe he will be able to turn the ship around in 2018.
  • We learned Friday that Chargers rookie wideout Mike Williams avoided an ACL tear during his team’s Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys, and Rapoport tweets that Williams has been diagnosed with a bone bruise. While Williams is expected to miss next week’s contest against the Browns, he will be week-to-week thereafter, which is a big deal for a team that has forced its way back into the playoff hunt.

Mike Williams Avoids ACL Injury

The Chargers received encouraging news about receiver Mike Williams on Friday night. Despite some concern that the talented rookie playmaker would “miss time” thanks to an injury he suffered on Thanksgiving, the team has learned that Williams did not injure his ACL, reports Dan Woike of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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“He’s still being evaluated right now, doctors and trainers. We’ll see where he goes from there,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “…As of now, I’ve just been told ACL, that’s been ruled out, which was very good news for me. I think we can deal with the rest, and lot of it may depend on pain tolerance as well.”

The former Clemson star exited Thursday’s game against the Cowboys after just one snap as he was seen limping off the field in a great amount of pain. The injury appeared to be non-contact.

While Friday’s news is encouraging for the wideout, it’s still been sort of a lost year for the 2017 seventh overall pick. Williams missed the Chargers first five games with a back injury and was just beginning to integrate himself more in the Los Angeles offense.

However, the news could have been much worse for all involved as there’s now a better chance that the injury is less serious than first anticipated.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Fear Mike Williams Will Miss Time

Just as the Chargers are making a serious push to do something no non-Chargers team has done since the AFL-NFL merger — make the playoffs after starting 0-4 — their first-round pick has encountered familiar trouble.

Mike Williams left Thursday’s game with a knee injury, and while this is a different malady than the back ailment that shelved the talented pass-catcher for much of the offseason and into the early portion of his rookie slate, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter) the team is concerned about Williams’ setback.

Williams will undergo an MRI on Friday, per Rapoport, who adds the Chargers are worried he will miss game time. That said, the team believes as of now Williams did not damage his ACL during the Bolts’ Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys.

The Clemson product who missed most of the 2015 season with a neck injury has been eased into his run with the Chargers. He’s played in six games and has only been targeted 15 times, catching nine passes for 84 yards. The Bolts are deep at wide receiver, though, with Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin also supplementing Keenan Allen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.