Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams have both done well for themselves over the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. But the team may be forced to only keep one. I take a look at who that may be by stacking the two against each other.
The Chargers finished the season with the most passing yards per game in the NFL. Along with Pro-Bowler Keenan Allen, Williams and Benjamin contributed to that first-place title. Fan speculation, however, has many debating whether or not to cut or keep Benjamin, or if the Chargers should re-sign Williams. To provide a bit of context, I pit the teammates against one another by comparing four areas. Up first,
a statistical standpoint:
- 2016: 69 catches, 1,059 yards, seven touchdowns
- 2017: 43 catches, 728 yards, four touchdowns
- 58.5% catch rate when targeted over both seasons
- 77 catches for a first down over two seasons
- 15.9 yards per catch average across 2016 and 2017
- One lost fumble
- 2016: 47 catches, 677 yards, four touchdowns
- 2017: 34 catches, 567 yards, four touchdowns
- 57.9% catch rate when targeted over both seasons
- 46 catches for a first down over two seasons
- 15.6 yards per catch average across 2016 and 2017
- Three fumbles, two lost
Williams, over the last two seasons, has caught more passes, had more yards, and scored more offensive touchdowns than Benjamin. However, this appears to be directly proportional to the number of targets he gets, having Rivers throw his way 189 times compared to Benjamin’s 140 across two years. Still, Williams appears to be the better possession receiver, and a true number two to Allen.
Edge: Tyrell Williams
But there’s more to it than just receptions and yards. Let’s check out what each player brings to the team…
— SportsNotes (@SportsNotes23) December 31, 2017
Williams has a great ability to stretch a defense, having massive touchdowns in multiple games this season. However, it’s hard to separate yourself as the team’s sole deep threat when your teammate does the same thing in the same game:
Rivers hits Benjamin on the bomb on 3rd-and-12 to extend the lead!
A 62-yard TD!
— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) December 31, 2017
When it comes to impact on the game, however, Travis Benjamin might just have more to offer:
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 22, 2017
And for all the grief he gets about his punt returning (some of it deserved), he’s actually ranked No. 7 in the NFL in punt return average with 9.5 yards per attempt, according to Fox Sports’ 2017 NFL stats. That’s above players like Tarik Cohen, Danny Amendola and believe it or not, Tyreek Hill.
Benjamin has also been utilized as a rusher this season, running 13 times for 96 yards on gadget plays for a 7.4 average.
Both are important pieces to this team, but it appears as though one clearly has the potential for more impact than the other:
Edge: Travis Benjamin
Let’s assume the Chargers decide to keep one and replace the other. Which one would be easier to replace?
- 5’10”, 175 lbs
- 28 years old, six seasons played
- Replacement on roster: no
- Possible 2018 free-agent replacement: Taylor Gabriel
6’4″, 205 lbs
25 years old, three seasons played
Replacement on roster: Mike Williams
Possible 2018 free-agent replacement: Jordan Matthews
On one hand, you have a smaller receiver in Benjamin who can be replaced by any other gadget player in the league, or in the upcoming NFL Draft. Williams, however, can be replaced by either a cheaper free agent of similar size or by 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams. The “Travis Benjamin role” cannot be filled by the former Clemson product, but he can step in for Williams. It won’t cost the Chargers any more money to start Mike Williams, either.
Edge: Travis Benjamin
But it’s the NFL, and it all comes down to money. So who is worth the cap spending? Here are their current contracts according to Spotrac.com.
Williams has made an average of $525,000 dollars per year with the Chargers and is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason. Having already been a 1,000-yard receiver for this team, he’s likely to command something near $9-10 million a year.
- 2018: $5.75 million base salary, $1.25 million dollar signing bonus
- 2018 cap hit: $7 million
- 2019: $5.25 million base salary, $1.25 million dollar signing bonus
- 2019 cap hit: $6.5 million
Benjamin would have a lower salary cap hit over the next two years than Williams, if the latter were to re-sign with the Chargers. Williams has been one of the best bargain-for-buck players across the NFL, and will be paid very well this offseason. Strictly in terms of cap hit, it’s obvious who has the edge.
Edge: Travis Benjamin
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By those four standards, Benjamin takes the score 3-1, winning out in terms of overall team impact, ability to be replaced and future contract. Williams edges Benjamin out in terms of pure receiving ability, having caught far more passes and touchdowns than his teammate over their last two seasons together.
Where I think it comes down to for the Chargers is money. They would like to keep both, but have some other important players or positions to address. Casey Hayward, the current best corner in the NFL, is projected to make only $5.08 million next season and should be a priority of Tom Telesco to extend. Important players like Adrian Phillips, Tre Boston and Korey Toomer should be retained as well.
I love Williams’ story, and no one deserves more money than an undrafted free agent earning every dollar over his first small contract. I would be happy to keep both, and it’s still very possible that the Chargers do. But if I had to pick one…
Verdict: Keep Travis Benjamin