Chargers 2018 free agency: Which restricted free agents should Bolts keep?
By Matt Pagels
1. Wide receiver Tyrell Williams
A year after leading the Chargers with 1,059 receiving yards and catching seven touchdowns, Williams took a step back in 2017. Williams had 43 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns. Keenan Allen’s return–and dominant performance–obviously played a big factor in that, but Williams’ regression was hard not to notice. He dropped some easy passes and has yet to learn how to use that 6-foot-4 frame of his.
However, the 2015 undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon is still one of the team’s top contributors on offense. He came on midway through the season, finishing with 50-plus receiving yards in four of the final six games, including a 132-yard receiving game in Week 14 vs. the Redskins. He also had a combined three touchdowns in those last six games after scoring just one TD the previous 10 games.
Williams, who just turned 26 years old, has the rare size-speed combination that teams covet. Williams is explosive when the ball is in his hands. He’s dangerous on crossing routes, using that speed and long strides to blow by defenders. He’s averaged 16.1 yards per reception over the past two seasons. More importantly, he’s durable, playing in every game (27 starts) the last two years.
The Chargers are relatively deep at receiver. Allen, who was named the 2017 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year, is a force. Mike Williams, the Chargers’ 2017 first-round pick, fell far behind after missing a ton of time with a back injury and never made an impact. Big things are expected of the Clemson product in 2018. Meanwhile, Travis Benjamin has underperformed since signing his four-year, $24 million contract two offseasons ago. Despite having top-end speed and being an effective deep threat, Benjamin could become a cap casualty in the coming months. Allen will make $7.5 million, Benjamin will make $5.75 million and Williams will make $1.36 million in base salaries in 2018.
But for now, T. Williams is currently the Chargers’ No. 2 receiver behind Allen. Even if M. Williams takes over No. 2 duties, T. Williams would remain a valuable asset on offense. The Chargers should place a second-round tender on him. It seems unlikely for another team to give up a second-round pick for him, which means the Chargers can keep him around for one more year on the cheap or potentially offer him a reasonable two- or three-year deal.