Mike Williams (Clemson)

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.

Chargers, Mike Williams Agree On New Deal

One of the top remaining franchise tag candidates has signed an big-money contract. The Chargers have inked Mike Williams to a three-year, $60MM deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). $40MM of the total is fully guaranteed. 

The Chargers had made it clear they were willing to tag Williams, though a long-term deal was always the preference. The 27-year-old played out last season on the fifth-year option, which earned him $15.7MM. Given his play during the campaign, it became clear a significant raise would be coming.

Williams posted 76 catches and 1,147 yards – both career highs. He also registered nine touchdowns, the second-highest total of his NFL tenure. Alongside Keenan Allen, he played a major role in the Chargers ranking second in the league in passing yards, while finishing top-five in scoring. This deal means that both Williams and Allen will next become free agents in 2025.

The $20MM per-year average is almost exactly what the franchise tag ($19.1MM) would’ve cost the Chargers in 2022 anyway, though Schefter notes that the first year of the deal includes $28MM. Unlike so many other teams, cap space was hardly an issue for Los Angeles; they entered the day with more than $56MM to work with for the upcoming season. This deal obviously takes a large bite out of that, but the medium-term pact should provide solid value for the team.

The main pieces to the Chargers’ passing attack will remain in place, something which is likely a necessity to compete in the AFC West. In a division already featuring Patrick Mahomesand that just saw the arrival of Russell Wilson – points will need to be scored early and often to keep up.

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.