On Wednesday, Mike Williams’ 5th-year option became fully guaranteed by the LA Chargers. $15.68 million will be his cap hit in 2021. All 5th-year options tend to be pricey relative to the position.
There are a few important things to remember though. In terms of the salary cap, Williams’ number was already accounted for. Some fans seemed to talk about it like they were spending a new $15 million on him. The Chargers still have $23 million available in spending money, plenty for what they want to do in the rest of free agency.
The other part of it is that rescinding the fifth-year option, which is what cutting him would’ve required, just isn’t done much around the league. The most recent example I can remember is Miami rescinding Ja’Wuan James’ 5th-year option in 2018.
Unless a player suffers a severe injury or has a really terrible season, taking away something that was already promised to them by the organization seems like a bad look.
The LA Chargers need Mike Williams for 2021
We can debate the long-term future of Williams on this team, but this week has been a reminder that they definitely need him in the interim. Whether they tried to re-sign him or not, Hunter Henry has left the building. Cutting Williams in addition to that would’ve been a ridiculous move.
While Chargers fans may not be thrilled with his 2020 production, he’s racked up 1757 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two years. That’s not easy to replace (which we’ll get to later) in the short term.
Personally, I didn’t think Henry was worth the $12.5-13 million that he got, but one of the reasons I thought about it for so long was continuity with Justin Herbert. Had the Chargers re-signed him for that reason, it wouldn’t have been an inherently bad one. Taking away two of Herbert’s targets by cutting Williams would’ve been a serious blow.
Sure, Herbert is talented enough to the point where that may not be a big deal in the long term, but don’t risk the possibility of his development suffering regression.
And again, it’s a one-year deal. If Williams’ production suffers or they can’t agree to an extension (think Melvin Gordon’s 5th-year option), then the Chargers just move on from him anyway in 2022.