Mike Williams (Clemson)

AFC West Rumors: Ross, Broncos, Williams

While Chiefs wide receiver Justyn Ross is dealing with some pretty serious issues off the field, his inability to get onto the field before then never made much sense to people. Yet, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, it was his problems on the field that kept him from making more of an impact.

After an incredibly productive freshman and sophomore year at Clemson, injuries and a bit of a downgrade at quarterback would keep Ross from reaching those heights again for the remainder of his college career. Even after those late struggles kept him from being drafted, many believed that a transition to the NFL, coupled with the opportunity to work in an offense with Patrick Mahomes, would result in a return to greatness for the former top-100 recruit.

Ross would spend his rookie year on injured reserve following offseason foot surgery but would finally enter the 2023 season ready to make his NFL debut. Instead, what we’ve seen is a role receiver who plays mostly on special teams while occasionally rotating in on offense.

Breer’s report claims that there are legitimate football issues keeping him off the field. While Ross is a big body at receiver, he’s not very versatile, struggling to create separation with speed or route-running. In an offense that requires its weapons to contribute in several different ways, it becomes less surprising that Ross is only able to find the field in certain situations.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of the AFC West, starting with an update on one of the Chargers‘ top missing weapons:

  • Los Angeles has been tasked with running an effective offense without wide receiver Mike Williams following the veteran receiver’s season-ending ACL tear. While his status for this year is obviously not going to change, Williams underwent a successful surgery yesterday, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. This may not provide much solace to fans in 2023, but undergoing surgery at this point sets the expectation that Williams will be fully ready by training camp next year.
  • The Broncos made an alteration to their ownership shares earlier this month, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS. With the team’s chief executive officer Greg Penner has been handling day-to-day operations since the Walton-Penner group purchased the organization, the Broncos’ controlling owner Rob Walton transferred a block of his shares to Penner, allowing Penner to take the mantle of controlling owner in addition to CEO. Penner’s four children will also receive an allotment of Walton’s shares in the exchange.
  • Denver cornerback K’Waun Williams suffered a setback from a preseason foot surgery that was reported this week to likely be season-ending. The setback required further surgery, which Williams underwent this past Monday, per Chris Tomasson of the Denver Gazette. The procedure on Williams’ left ankle reportedly went “very well” and will require a recovery period of approximately 12 weeks, allowing him to return in time for spring football practice.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/26/23

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

The Chargers officially placed Mike Williams on injured reserve today, opening a roster spot. The front office didn’t take long filling his spot on the depth chart, snagging receiver Simi Fehoko from Pittsburgh’s practice squad. The former fifth-round pick spent the first two seasons of his career with the Cowboys, where he hauled in three catches in 10 games. The Stanford product also had a significant role on special teams during his time in Dallas.

Roy Lopez looked to be entrenched in Houston’s defense for the foreseeable future, with the former sixth-round pick starting 29 of his 33 appearances between 2021 and 2022. However, after collecting only 67 tackles and two sacks across those two seasons, he was waived/injured by the Texans at the end of the preseason. The defensive lineman caught on with Arizona’s practice squad late last week.

Chargers WR Mike Williams Suffers ACL Tear

11:30am: An MRI confirmed Williams has torn his ACL, per Rapoport. The news confirms he will be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, though ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes Williams is expected to be available for the start of training camp in 2024. Given his importance to the Chargers’ offense, however, that point will come as little consolation as the team prepares to move forward without him.

8:47am: The Chargers picked up their first win of the season on Sunday, but their offense suffered a major blow in the process. Wideout Mike Williams left the contest with a knee injury, and it may cost him the remainder of the campaign.

An MRI is scheduled for Monday, but for now the team fears Williams’ knee injury could be season-ending, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (video link). The 28-year-old went down in the third quarter of Los Angeles’ win over Minnesota, and he needed to be carted off the field. That led to concerns a lengthy absence could ensue, and that would certainly be the case if testing were to confirm the worst-case scenario.

Williams is no stranger to injury, having played a full season only once in his seven-year career. He has dealt with back ailments on a number of occasions, including a herniated disc in his rookie campaign and a fracture suffered in Week 18 of last season which kept him out of the Chargers’ wild-card loss. This latest injury is of a different variety, but it will nevertheless be a signficant one if it proves to shut Williams down for the remainder of 2023.

The Clemson alum is currently in the second season of his three-year, $60MM extension. That pact took the place of a potential 2022 franchise tag, and ensured the Chargers would have the tandem of Williams and Keenan Allen intact through 2024. Both wideouts are set to hit free agency at the end of next season, but an extension for either or both could be in order since they are each scheduled to count for more than $32MM against the cap next year.

Williams was off to a good start to the campaign, especially in yesterday’s contest. Allen, too, has had a highly productive first three weeks (posting 402 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a league-leading 32 receptions); the Chargers will need the latter to continue those performances if Williams does indeed miss the remainder of the campaign. 2021 third-rounder Josh Palmer – who enjoyed a career-year in 2022 with 72 catches and 769 yards – will take on a larger role in Williams’ absence.

The same will likely be true of rookie Quentin Johnston. One of four wideouts taken in a four-pick span in the first round of April’s draft, the TCU product entered the league with signficant expectations but plenty of competition for snaps and targets. If Williams is forced to miss signficant time, Johnston (who has played only 48 snaps to date) could find himself in a starter’s role. His ability to shoulder an increased workload could go a long way in keeping the Chargers’ passing offense intact through the remainder of the campaign.

Bolts’ Mike Williams Sustains Back Fracture

Brandon Staley‘s criticized decision to play his starters in a meaningless Week 18 game has produced consequences. The Chargers already ruled out Mike Williams for their wild-card game, despite Staley indicating early this week he expected the sixth-year receiver to play. It does not look like the impact wideout would be available in a second-round contest, should the Chargers defeat the Jaguars.

Further testing revealed Williams sustained a fracture in his back, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The injury is likely to sideline Williams for multiple weeks. Williams will not travel with the Chargers to Jacksonville. After Williams had not progressed as the Bolts expected this week, Pelissero reports (via Twitter) a rescan Friday morning revealed a transverse process fracture. A significant injury is not too surprising here, with Williams needing a cart to transport him to the visitor’s locker room last week.

Williams will not require surgery, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reports, adding that he should likely be considered done for the season unless the Chargers make a surprising run to Super Bowl LVII. The X-ray on Williams’ back was negative, with Thiry adding the ensuing MRI was as well. MRI No. 2 ended up revealing the fracture.

This is a brutal blow to a Chargers team that perennially battles major injuries. Playing their starters well into the fourth quarter in Week 18, the Bolts did not beat the struggling Broncos and ended the season 10-7. They still secured the AFC’s No. 5 seed, but given that they were locked into that spot regardless of outcome, Staley received an avalanche of criticism. Friday’s news will mark another key chapter into the Bolts’ checkered recent history regarding injuries.

The Chargers re-signed Williams, 28, this offseason, doing well to lock down the former first-round pick before the receiver market exploded. He is attached to a three-year, $60MM deal, but the Clemson product does have a notable injury history — including back trouble. Williams missed the first five games of his Bolts career with a back injury. He suffered a herniated disk in 2017, keeping him out for months ahead of his rookie season.

While that was obviously a long time ago, Williams also missed four games this season due to a high ankle sprain. He returned to action against the Chiefs in November but aggravated the injury and left that game. Williams missed two games after that aggravation. His latest injury could be flashpoint in Staley’s Chargers tenure. Should the Bolts win Saturday, they will likely — with Lamar Jackson almost certainly out for the Ravens, giving the Bengals a clear path to Round 2 and a likely Buffalo trip — face the Chiefs for a third time. Now, it appears they would do so without Williams.

The Bolts are making their first playoff appearance since 2018 — Anthony Lynn‘s second season — and while Staley will receive credit for helping an injury-plagued team bounce back after a midseason swoon had it at 6-6, his seat has been somewhat warm due to the interest Sean Payton is believed to have in this job. Payton, who currently lives in Los Angeles, identified the Bolts job as a potential target months ago. Those rumors have not exactly quieted, Payton’s potential interest in the Broncos position notwithstanding. If the Chargers lose to the Jaguars after Staley played starters for most of a meaningless Denver matchup, his job should probably not be considered safe.

As for the Chargers’ receiving corps, Josh Palmer will be expected to play a bigger role against the Jags. Palmer and return man DeAndre Carter played frequently during Williams and Keenan Allen‘s extended absences this season. Palmer’s 769 receiving yards trailed only Williams (895) this season. Plenty will be on Allen’s shoulders in these playoffs.

Chargers Rule Out Mike Williams Vs. Jaguars

JANUARY 13: Despite Staley’s expectation Williams would return against the Jaguars, the injury he sustained in Week 18’s meaningless (for seeding purposes) game will cost the Chargers. Staley said Williams could play without practicing this week, but the Bolts HC ruled out the big-play wideout for Saturday night’s game. Williams will remain in Los Angeles to undergo treatment, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Staley drew steady criticism for leaving his starters in the regular-season finale well into the fourth quarter. That decision leading to the team losing Williams for the playoff opener will increase the scrutiny on the second-year HC.

JANUARY 9: The Chargers got a scare on Sunday when leading wide receiver Mike Williams needed to be carted to the locker room in a Week 18 loss to the Broncos that held no playoff implications.

Despite the serious look of the back injury that ailed him, Williams is expected to play this Saturday night in Jacksonville, according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry.

Williams, who leads all Chargers receivers with 895 receiving yards, suffered a back injury Sunday that required him to be assisted off the field by trainers and, eventually, to be carted off to the locker room. The injury appeared to affect Williams so much that he required help to get back to the team bus from the locker room. Daniel Popper of The Athletic reported that Williams “could not walk on his own.”

Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley told reporters that Williams underwent an MRI exam that revealed no fracture or muscle injury. Williams only suffered a contusion, albeit, it appears, a painful one. Regardless, Staley expects that Williams will return to practice this week and should be available against the Jaguars this weekend.

Injury Updates: Williams, Toney, Robinson

Injuries continue to plague wide receiver Mike Williams and the Chargers this 2022 season. After making his way back from a three-week absence, during which he missed two games, Williams left the team’s loss to the Chiefs last week after only six offensive snaps. The setback that took him out early in last week’s game will now officially keep him out for another game as Los Angeles has ruled him out for this week’s matchup against the Cardinals.

In Williams’ absence, the team will likely go with the same wide receiver mixture they did when he left last week. Keenan Allen will lead the receiving corps alongside Josh Palmer and DeAndre Carter while also getting some reserve snaps from Michael Bandy.

It was originally expected that Williams would miss four games, after the initial diagnosis of his high ankle sprain. Counting last week as an absence, this week will be his fourth missed game, hopefully giving him the rest he needs to help the Chargers make a playoff push.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the league, starting with another injured wide receiver in the AFC West:

  • Second-year receiver Kadarius Toney has been ruled out for this week’s matchup against the Rams. Toney suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the team’s win over the Chargers last week. The former first-round pick missed seven games over his rookie season with the Giants, missing five more games due to a Week 2 injury this season before his eventual trade to the Chiefs. This will be Toney’s first missed game as a Chief, a trend that Kansas City fans will hope ends here. The good news is that the team expects JuJu Smith-Schuster to return from a concussion that held him out of last week’s game. Smith-Schuster should start alongside Marquez Valdes-Scantling with Justin Watson and Skyy Moore providing off the bench.
  • Rams starting defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn meniscus, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The stout run-defender had really found a home on the Rams’ line alongside Greg Gaines and Aaron Donald but Los Angeles will need to figure things out without him for the rest of the year. Marquise Copeland‘s name was called last week when Robinson left the game in New Orleans. Michael Hoecht is usually the next name off the bench while Bobby Brown III and Jonah Williams each rotate in for short periods, as well. Copeland is expected to take on Robinson’s role for the remainder of the season, though.

Chargers WRs Keenan Allen, Mike Williams Expected To Play In Week 11

Sunday could mark the first time this season that Chargers wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams start and finish a game together. As Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reports, both players were full participants in practice on Friday and are expected to play in the Bolts’ Week 11 matchup with the division-rival Chiefs.

Allen sustained a hamstring injury in the season opener, and he has reaggravated the injury multiple times. He returned for Los Angeles’ Week 7 loss to the Seahawks, though he appeared in just 23 snaps and caught two passes for 11 yards. The hamstring problem flared up during the club’s Week 8 bye, and he has missed the last two contests as a result.

Williams, meanwhile, suffered a high ankle sprain during the above-referenced Seattle matchup and was forced to leave the game early. Like Allen, Williams has been sidelined for the last two games.

When healthy, the Allen-Williams tandem is one of the best WR duos in the league, and their compensation reflects that. In March, Williams signed a three-year, $60MM contract featuring $40MM in guaranteed money, and he was living up to that deal prior to the injury. In seven games, the Clemson product has posted 37 catches for 495 yards, putting him on pace for his second consecutive campaign of 1,100+ yards. Though his 2022 13.4 YPR rate represents a step back from his recent output, his catch percentage has increased from 58.9% in 2021 to 62.7% this year.

Allen signed his $20MM/year deal in September 2020, an accord that made him the second-highest-paid wideout in the league at the time. That marked the second extension the Chargers authorized for Allen since they selected him in the third round of the 2013 draft, and he has largely justified the team’s faith in him. From 2017-21, Allen averaged over 101 receptions and 1,180 yards per season, all of which culminated in Pro Bowl nods. He has never been the home run threat that Williams is, but he is about as reliable as a receiver can be.

Although the 2022 season has been a wash for Allen thus far, a return to his typical form would be a significant development for a Chargers club that is 5-4 and currently just outside the AFC playoff picture. Per Thiry, the team is also set to welcome back right tackle Trey Pipkins III, who missed LA’s Week 10 loss to the 49ers due to a knee injury.

Mike Williams Suffers High Ankle Sprain

OCTOBER 26: The injury-riddled Bolts are expecting Williams to miss at least four games, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. This could lead to an IR stay, though the team may go week-to-week while determining if Williams could beat that timetable.

OCTOBER 25: On the day the Chargers saw their highly regarded receiver tandem reunited, another injury took a toll at the position. Mike Williams suffered a high ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

Williams is expected to miss “some time” as a result of the injury, which will once again leave the Chargers shorthanded in the passing game. Keenan Allen suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener, and was only able to return to game action in Week 7. That led to optimism for the team’s offense, given the production both he and Williams have accounted for during their respective careers.

The latter had put up solid numbers in Allen’s absence this season, eclipsing the 100-yard mark three times so far. Overall, the 28-year-old has amassed 495 yards and three touchdowns, averaging the second-highest yards per game average of his career (70.7). That figure only ranks below that of 2021, his best season to date.

After eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time, Williams signed a three-year, $60MM deal this offseason. That ended the possibility of him playing out the season on the franchise tag, and lines up his free agency with that of Allen. The Chargers are the only NFL team with two wideouts averaging $20MM per season, a fact which could become troublesome soon with a Justin Herbert extension potentially on the horizon.

This injury is likely to keep Williams sidelined for the longest stretch since his rookie campaign. A herniated disc threatened his availability in 2017, but the Clemson alum was ultimately able to suit up for 10 games. In the four years since then, Williams has missed a total of three games. Allen will assume a larger role in the team’s passing game, with Josh Palmer (who missed Sunday’s game) the next highest option on the depth chart.

Overall, Williams going down represents yet another blow to the Chargers on the injury front. The team is already without left tackle Rashawn Slater and edge rusher Joey Bosa for the foreseeable future, and lost high-priced cornerback J.C. Jackson for the season on Sunday. The team’s bye week will, on the other hand, give Williams the opportunity to minimize the number of contests he misses.

Chargers CB J.C. Jackson Out For Season

OCTOBER 24: Staley confirmed the high-priced corner will miss the rest of the season. The second-year Bolts HC said Jackson suffered a patellar tendon rupture. This can be one of the toughest injuries to surmount. Needless to say, it will require significant recovery time. This adds to another brutal season for Chargers injuries. Jackson is signed through the 2026 season on a contract that includes $40MM in guarantees.

OCTOBER 23: The Chargers lost their Week 7 contest to the Seahawks on Sunday, and they may have lost a high-profile defender as well. Cornerback J.C. Jackson, who was carted off the field in an air cast, suffered a dislocated kneecap, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Jackson will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage, but head coach Brandon Staley called the injury “significant” (Twitter link via James Palmer of the NFL Network).

Jackson signed a massive five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Bolts this offseason, and the early returns have not been promising. The soon-to-be 27-year-old was forced to undergo ankle surgery in August, which kept him out of Los Angeles’ Week 1 victory over the Raiders, and he also missed the club’s Week 3 drubbing against the Jaguars. In the four games he had appeared in before Sunday, he surrendered a 149.3 QB rating on passes thrown in his direction, according to Pro Football Reference. Pro Football Focus was even less friendly, charging him with a 155.3 rating and assigning him a dismal 28.9 coverage grade.

Still, it’s easy enough to chalk those numbers up to small sample size volatility and the learning curve that can be expected when a player is adjusting to a new system. The Chargers authorized the Jackson deal for a reason, and losing him for an extended period of time would be a difficult pill to swallow. That is especially true given that the club is already without star pass rusher Joey Bosa, who was placed on IR last month and who is not expected back until the end of November at the earliest. Even when he does return, it is not believed that he will perform at his usual elite level.

Making matters worse is the fact that Los Angeles also lost WR Mike Williams in the fourth quarter of the Seattle game, with Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reporting that Williams sustained a right ankle injury. Ironically, fellow receiver Keenan Allen, who had been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 1, finally returned to game action on Sunday. Allen and Williams have yet to finish a game together in 2022.

Meanwhile, LT Rashawn Slater joined Bosa on injured reserve at the end of September, and if he returns at all this year, it will not be until the end of the regular season or the beginning of the playoffs, if the Chargers should qualify. The 4-3 outfit is still in the thick of the postseason picture, but the mounting injuries are obviously cause for alarm. Initial reporting seems to suggest that Williams’ prognosis is not as worrisome as Jackson’s, though we are awaiting confirmation on that front.

In Jackson’s absence, Michael Davis stands to see an increase in snaps. Davis has started the two games that Jackson missed this year, and he started 49 games for the Chargers from 2018-21. Jackson was benched in favor of Davis during halftime of LA’s Week 6 win against the Broncos.

Contract Details: Williams, Kirksey, Conley, Landry

Rounding up a few contract details from recent deals:

  • Mike Williams, WR (Chargers): Three-year, $60MM. The contract has $40MM guaranteed, including a $21MM signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. The third year of the contract, worth $17MM in not guaranteed for the 2024 season, when Williams will be due a $3MM roster bonus on the third day of the league year.
  • Christian Kirksey, LB (Texans): Two-year, $10MM. The contract has a base value of $8MM with a $2MM signing bonus being part of the contract’s $4MM guaranteed amount, according to Wilson. Kirksey will earn approximately $58,823 per game as an active bonus for up to $1MM per year. The contract also holds annual incentives of $250,000 for each year of the contract.
  • Chris Conley, WR (Texans): One-year, $2MM. The contract has a base salary of $1.5MM, $500,000 of which is guaranteed, along with a $250,000 signing bonus, according to Wilson. Conley’s contract also has a per game active bonus clause that can earn him up to $250,000 for the year as well as a $500,000 incentive that can be triggered off his 2022 catch and playing time totals.
  • Harold Landry, OLB (Titans): Five-year, $87.5MM. The contract has a guaranteed amount of $52.5MM, composed of a $19MM signing bonus and the contract’s first three years of salary: $1.25MM for 2022, $15MM for 2023, and $17.25MM for 2024, according to Wilson. The 2024 amount is guaranteed for injury at signing, meaning that it won’t become guaranteed until the 5th day of the 2023 league year.