Chargers release wide receiver Mike Williams in step to become salary-cap compliant

Facing significant salary-cap issues, the Chargers released wide receiver Mike Williams late Wednesday morning.

The move was not unexpected as the team faced a 1 p.m. deadline to become cap compliant.

Including the recent signings of safety Alohi Gilman, running back Gus Edwards and tight end Will Dissly, the Chargers began the day about $25 million over the NFL-mandated threshold of $255.4 million.

Releasing Williams saved the team $20 million while taking on $12.46 million in dead money.

Willams, 29, was one of four Chargers with cap hits in excess of $32 million, leaving the team’s new leadership of general manager Joe Horitz and coach Jim Harbaugh no choice but to make a tough decision.

Edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa and wide receiver Keenan Allen also have cap hits that go beyond $32 million.

The Chargers and Mack reached an agreement that would lower his number, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

At age 32, Mack had his finest season in 2023, finishing with a career-best 17 sacks, six of which came in a Week 4 victory over Las Vegas. He also had five forced fumbles, one short of his single-season career high.

Both Bosa and Allen have significant bonuses coming, according to their contracts. As long as they remain on the roster, Bosa is due to pick up $7 million on Friday and Allen $5 million on Sunday.

The Chargers are believed to have interest in re-signing Williams at a lower price, but he figures to draw considerable attention now as a free agent.

The Chargers drafted Williams in the first round — No. 7 overall — in 2017 following four years at Clemson, where the Tigers won the national title in his final season.

His rookie year was derailed by repeated injuries, including a herniated disk, tight hamstrings and a knee issue. Williams caught only 11 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns in the Chargers’ first season in Los Angeles.

But he rebounded in Year 2 with a team-high 10 touchdown receptions, and Williams was on his way to a productive five-year stretch.

He topped 1,000 yards in 2019 and 2021, while earning a reputation as one of the league’s best receivers at winning 50/50 balls against defensive backs.

In March 2022, Williams signed a three-year deal that guaranteed him $40 million and was worth up to $60 million.

His contract was restructured a year ago as Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley — the Chargers’ former general manager and head coach, respectively — attempted to keep the top end of the roster intact to make a run at the playoffs.

That plan fell apart as Williams was one of the key Chargers who was hurt as the team crumbled to a 5-12 finish that cost Telesco and Staley their jobs.

Williams appeared in only three games before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in late September. That ended his season and, ultimately, his time with the Chargers.

His final numbers during seven years with the Chargers: 309 receptions for 4,806 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Mack was one of the key player acquisitions during Staley’s three years as Chargers head coach. The two previously had been together with the Chicago Bears.

Mack arrived and quickly became a significant defensive piece and locker room leader. He began organizing weekly team dinners that have remained a staple during his time with the team.

On the field, Mack has been healthy and productive. He appeared in all 34 regular-season games over the past two years and totaled 25 sacks and 74 tackles while making back-to-back Pro Bowls.


Former Chargers linebacker and captain Eric Kendricks will join San Francisco, where he’ll reunite with Staley. With a year remaining on his contract, Kendricks was released March 5. The 49ers hired Staley as an assistant coach early this month.

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