Mike Williams is certainly not the best wide receiver poised to hit the NFL free-agent market come mid-March. That title goes to Davante Adams.
But as far as pure deep threats are concerned, there isn’t anyone about to become available with more of a home-run threat than Big Mike.
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers, the 27-year-old Williams had a breakout season in 2021, setting career highs in receptions (76), targets (129) and yards (1,146) while scoring nine touchdowns.
Williams’ timing could not have been better, as he now becomes an unrestricted free agent. A 6-foot-4, Williams will be an enormous presence for teams looking to add a big-play receiver who would be a No. 1 option on most teams in the league. Here’s a look at his top suitors, including the Chargers, who could end all the free-agent speculation with one transaction.
The Chargers could be open to using the franchise tag on Williams
The Chargers have the one thing all but one of the other 31 teams doesn’t: Oodles of cap space. Only the Miami Dolphins have more room under the cap entering free agency. The Chargers should have anywhere between $57 and $73 million to work with after some contract restructuring, and that is more than enough to keep Williams in the fold and address other needs via free agency.
If Williams wants to stay with the Chargers long term, and gets a contract worth about $17 million per year, it would affect their 2022 cap less than if they simply franchised him at $18 million. Either way, the Chargers have all the leverage here if they want to keep their deep threat.
Las Vegas Raiders
But if for whatever reason the Chargers choose to keep the receiving corps they already employ and spend their dollars elsewhere, there are several teams ready to open their wallets for the Williams and his field-stretching abilities.
The Las Vegas Raiders have their possession receiver in Hunter Renfrow and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in Darren Waller. But after the tragic circumstances around Henry Ruggs, the Raiders have been bereft of a reliable deep threat. Williams fills that need perhaps better than any other free-agent wide receiver on the market, including Davante Adams and Chris Godwin.
In their post-Urban Meyer existence, the Jaguars actually have a chance to make a sizable leap in 2022. They already hold the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and the sky remains the limit for second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Jaguars also possess roughly $70 million in available cap space, and what better investment could the Jaguars make than gifting their prized, young quarterback one of the top wide receiver options on the market? Williams would instantly become the top receiver on the roster and his ability to stretch the field will only make the other young receiving pieces that much better around him. The Jaguars need an infusion of big-play offense, and Williams is the best man for the job.
The Indianapolis offense will always revolve around running back Jonathan Taylor. But just imagine how much more dominant Taylor could have been in 2021 if the Colts had a legitimate deep passing threat to occupy safety help, instead of teams loading the box and daring Carson Wentz to beat them with the likes of Zach Pascal and the shell of T.Y. Hilton.
Williams would be like a giant, healthy version of Hilton, occupying defenses while Taylor makes the most of the new-found holes at the line of scrimmage. Putting Williams on the opposite side of breakout star Michael Pittman could completely change the dynamic in the AFC South.
Trading for Odell Beckham Jr. obviously didn’t work out for the Cleveland Browns, and Baker Mayfield suffered for not having reliable wide receiver options in the back half of the season. The Browns have good pieces on offense. The running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is as good a duo as there is in the league. Jarvis Landry as a No. 2 option is a luxury most teams would covet.
All the Browns need is that big, No. 1 field stretcher to open up all those other pieces and let Mayfield choose his weapon. Williams could be the Beckham they always wanted.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference