Mike Williams (Clemson)

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.

Chargers Willing To Use Franchise Tag On Mike Williams

If he were to hit free agency, Mike Williams would be in line for a lucrative new contract, either with the Chargers of another club. It appears that won’t be the case, however. Tyler Dragon of USA Today reports that “the Chargers are prepared to franchise tag” him in the absence of a long-term deal (Twitter link). 

The former top-ten pick played out his fifth year option in 2021 without inking a new deal at any point. That didn’t come as a surprise, as it was reported before the beginning of the season that both sides seemed content to wait until this offseason. That decision likely earned the 27-year-old a notable payday.

Williams posted career highs in catches (76) and yards (1,146) this campaign, adding nine touchdowns, the second-most times he’s found the endzone in a season. It was the second time he eclipsed 1,000 yards, and the first since the Bolts drafted quarterback Justin Herbert. He helped the Chargers rank second in the league in passing yards, and fifth overall in scoring.

In 2022, the cost of a franchise tag is set to be $19.1MM for receivers. That would be a sizeable increase from the $15.7MM Williams earned playing out the option last season; perhaps more notably, it would also outpace the money due to No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen in each of the next two seasons. Still, a longer deal somewhere around that figure is a possibility, even if the team tags Williams next week to buy more time for negotiations.

Either on the tag, or as the beginning of a lengthier second contract, the Chargers can certainly afford to keep their dynamic receiver tandem intact. They are currently scheduled to have more than $56MM in cap space, with Allen under contract until 2025 and Herbert still on his rookie deal. Williams’ absence from the free agent market would be noteworthy, though it would still leave the likes of Davante Adams, Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson potentially in line for new homes.

If for some reason Williams should hit the open market, the division-rival Chiefs would be prepared to pounce. Per Adam H. Beasley of Pro Football Network, Kansas City is among the teams that have done their due diligence on Williams, and KC would love the chance to pair Williams’ size and big-play ability with Tyreek Hill, which would certainly keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. That seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s worth nothing nonetheless, as it suggests that the Chiefs could be in the market for other FA receivers as well.

Beasley adds that a long-term accord between Williams and the Chargers is not imminent at this point, so it looks like the franchise tag will be forthcoming.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/30/21

Here are Thursday’s reserve/COVID-19 list updates:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Activated from virus list: OL Cody Ford, CB Cam Lewis
  • Activated from practice squad virus list: TE Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

  • Placed on practice squad virus list: LB Omari Cobb

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

NFL, NFLPA Modify COVID Protocols

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have adopted the CDC’s new guidelines and reduced quarantine time from 10 days to five days for players who test positive for COVID-19, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). This is relevant for all asymptomatic players, regardless of vaccination status.

As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero notes on Twitter, a player’s ability to return to the field isn’t necessarily contingent on being asymptomatic. Rather, their return will need to be at least five days after their initial swap, the player will need to have no fevers for 24 hours, they’ll need to see “resolved or improved” symptoms (like coughing), and they’ll need to be cleared by team doctors (“in consultation with ICS and NFL“).

This will naturally lead to a quicker return-to-play path. Per Lindsay Jones of The Athletic (on Twitter), the NFL is the first professional sports league to change protocols to “align” with the CDC’s guidelines. Following the NFL’s decision to postpone several games earlier this month, the league is now clearly focused on finishing the regular season without any more postponements or cancellations.

The new protocols are retroactive, meaning players who are currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list are eligible to return after five days (per ESPN’s Dianna Russini on Twitter). As Pelissero tweets, this provides some clarity on a handful of unvaccinated players who were recently placed on the list, a group that includes Colts quarterback Carson Wentz and Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams.

Bolts Activate Chris Harris, Mike Williams

SATURDAY: Harris and Williams continued to test negative and are back on Los Angeles’ active roster. The Chargers, as they did with Bosa last month, will see both players land on the COVID list as close contacts but avoid missing a game. Allen, however, will not play Sunday. The perennial Pro Bowler tested positive Monday and has been ruled out.

WEDNESDAY: Two days after placing Keenan Allen on their reserve/COVID-19 list, the Chargers learned more standout performers face the prospect of being unavailable Sunday.

The Bolts placed Chris Harris and Mike Williams on their coronavirus list Wednesday. It turns out this is a similar situation to the one the Bolts dealt with regarding Joey Bosa last month. Harris and Williams are unvaccinated close contacts of Allen, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

While this development will prevent both from practicing this week, each starter would be eligible to return Sunday after their five-day quarantine periods cease. The five-day isolation stays begin after the duo’s most recent contact with Allen, giving each a chance to return since neither tested positive. Of course, a subsequent positive test would sideline the unvaccinated players for 10 more days.

Williams was set to play a bigger role for the Bolts on Sunday, with Allen testing positive earlier this week. The former top-10 pick is on pace for a career-best season. Los Angeles’ No. 2 wideout has amassed 854 yards and seven touchdown receptions this season; he is coming off a 110-yard day in Cincinnati.

A 2010s All-Decade performer who has been the Bolts’ primary slot cornerback, Harris has battled some availability issues during his two-year Chargers stay. The former Broncos All-Pro defender has missed five games due to injury this season and was sidelined for seven in 2020. The 32-year-old cover man intercepted a Joe Burrow pass to seal a Chargers road win in Week 13.

Mike Williams Chargers Extension Unlikely?

The Chargers have Mike Williams tied to a fifth-year option in 2021, but the former top-10 pick is on schedule to be a free agent come March. The sides may be content to revisit this issue after the season.

A Williams extension is not expected to commence this year, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). While the Bolts have exclusive negotiating rights with Williams until the start of the 2022 legal tampering period, the former Clemson standout could become a marquee free agent in 2022.

Williams has battled injuries as a pro but has only missed two games over the past two seasons. He led the NFL with a 20.4-yard per-reception average in 2019 and totaled 756 receiving yards last season. With Justin Herbert going through a full offseason and the Bolts investing in several new offensive linemen, Williams could be poised for a big contract year. With Hunter Henry now in New England, the coast is clear for the former No. 7 overall pick to serve as Herbert’s clear-cut No. 2 weapon behind Keenan Allen. Considering Herbert’s historic rookie year, that status could provide a major boost for Williams’ value entering 2022.

Allen, 29, is signed through 2024 on a $20MM-per-year deal. The four-time Pro Bowler’s contract complicates Williams’ status, but the Chargers would still have the franchise tag to use if they are keen on keeping their receiving tandem together for at least another season while they determine the latter’s long-term value. The Buccaneers went this route with Chris Godwin this year, keeping their high-end wideout duo intact, and it would not surprise if the Bolts chose to follow suit with Herbert’s rookie contract in place through at least 2022.

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.

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.