Chargers forced to cut Mike Williams, keep Khalil Mack in unexpected turn

Los Angeles Chargers v Indianapolis Colts
Los Angeles Chargers v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Heading into the offseason it was clear that the Chargers were going to have to cut ties with at least one fan favorite (likely two) in order to get under the salary cap. Heck, Jim Harbaugh's comments after being hired seemingly confirmed this reality, and put the spotlight firmly on wide receiver Mike Williams.

None of that made Wednesday's news any easier. It may have been the most predictable move the Chargers could have made, but it was still painful. On Wednesday, the Chargers officially released Williams to create $20 million in cap space.

The Chargers have officially become cap-compliant with the move, making it before the 1 p.m. PDT deadline on Wednesday afternoon. However, the team will need to create more space in order to sign their incoming free agents (and pay the 2024 draft class).

Releasing Williams was not the only thing the Chargers did to free up cap space on Wednesday. Los Angeles also created space via Khalil Mack, but did so in a way that skirted expectations. Instead of trading or releasing Mack, the Chargers actually agreed to a restructured deal with the veteran edge rusher.

Chargers make the right moves with Mike Williams and Khalil Mack

As painful as it is to see a fan-favorite like Williams leave the team, it makes all the sense in the world to release him given the situation. Williams is coming off a torn ACL and has not necessarily had the cleanest bill of health throughout his career. Releasing him was a necessity.

The Mack move is the more surprising of the two but in hindsight, was the perfect way to handle the situation. A restructure was not expected with Mack in a contract year but the Chargers managed to pull it off, which is a testament to Joe Hortiz.

There are two ways to restructure one year left on a contract. Mack could either take a pay cut, which is the unlikelier of the two scenarios as he has no reason to do so at 33 years old. The other route is to add void years to his deal that can help space out his $17.5 million base salary this season.

Let's say the Chargers add two void years to Mack's deal. They can take, say, $12 million of his base salary and convert it into cap hits in 2025 and 2026 of $6 million each. That would give the Chargers an additional $12 million in space without giving the team an insurmountable cap hit in the future to deal with.

The exact figures of the restructure are not yet released but expect it to be something in that ballpark. Regardless, the Chargers were able to become cap-compliant and create space for their incoming free agents. More work has to be done with Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen, but this is a great start.