Los Angeles Chargers receiver Mike Williams is an interesting test case for players set to play on the fifth-year option this season.
The former first-round pick is due $15.68 million on the final year of his contract. The figure places Williams with the ninth highest cap number among wide receivers in 2021, directly behind teammate Keenan Allen.
The situation leaves general manager Tom Telesco with a few choices: Ride out the contract given the Chargers aren't as cap-strapped as some teams and deal with it next year; sign Williams to an extension to lower his cap figure this season; trade him; or cut the WR outright and move on.
"Again, you keep all options open," Telesco said Thursday, via the team's official transcript. "Mike has done one heck of a job for us. I think he is a really, really high-level football player. The opportunities that he gets, he makes big plays for us. It's not necessarily his fault that he has [WR] Keenan Allen on one side, Hunter Henry at tight end and Austin Ekeler at running back, and there's only one football to go around. Mike is a very talented, high-level football player in this league."
Williams earned 48 catches for 756 yards with five TDs in 15 games played while battling through some injuries in 2020. The former No. 7 overall pick took some time to build chemistry with quarterback Justin Herbert but played a key role as a boundary receiver with field-stretching speed.
The Chargers are projected to have the ninth-most cap space this offseason and could absorb the final year of Williams deal. But Telesco could decide that two receivers with $15-plus million cap hits in a year the pool is sinking isn't tenable with needs on the offensive line and Henry headed toward free agency. An extension makes sense if Williams is in the Chargers' plans beyond 2021, or a trade could be enticing if a club with more cap space comes calling.
In a normal season, the Chargers would probably absorb the hit on a talented but not dominant first-rounder like Williams and ride it out a year. This year will not be normal.
The higher cap hits on fifth-year options could lead to some decisions on players who otherwise wouldn't be considered moveable.