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Chargers 2021 Pre-Free Agency Overview: Wide Receivers

What will end up happening with Mike Williams and his massive cap hit in 2021?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

On Roster: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, K.J. Hill, Joe Reed, Jason Moore, John Hurst

Allen wasted no time in developing a strong connection with Justin Herbert this past season as he spent most of the year on track for another 100-catch, 1,000-yard season before succumbing to a lower-body injury late in the year. After being very limited in Week 15, followed by missing the final two games of the regular season, Allen just barely missed out on reaching 1,000 receiving yards (992) but did end up notching 100 receptions before being sidelined. Before the injury, he was on pace to finish with 120 receptions for 1,201 yards, and 10 touchdowns. The receptions mark would have smashed his career high and the 10 scores would have been his first in the double-digits.

At this moment, Williams is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2021 that would pay him $15.68 million. For context, that cap hit is just $20,000 less than Allen’s. It’s also higher than the hits of DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. If I’m the Chargers, I do not want to pay that price tag and I’d be doing everything I can to sign him to a long-term, much more team-friendly deal. This past season, his stat line of 48-756-5 were all the second-best marks of his four-year career.

Guyton and Johnson were two of the biggest surprises of the 2020 campaign outside of Herbert’s record-breaking year. Both weren’t expected to be big contributors this past season, especially after the Chargers selected Reed and Hill in last year’s draft. However, the former two left the latter two in the dust with their elite speed and big-play ability.

Guyton finished with 511 yards receiving on 28 reception while Johnson totaled 398 on 20. Guyton’s yards-per-reception average of 18.3 was good for fourth among all players with at least 20 receptions while Johnson’s 19.9 was second only to Green Bay’s Marquez Valdez-Scantling.

Reed was selected in the fifth round this past season after finishing one of the best careers of a kick returner in FBS history. After struggling in that area the past few seasons, the Chargers wanted to address it while also adding a dynamic offensive weapon. Unfortunately, Reed lost his return job by midseason and he never consistently saw the field as a receiver. His final stats on offense included five rushes for 29 yards and a touchdown with no receptions. His longest kickoff return on the year was 46 yards against the Bengals in Week 1.

Hill was seen as a steal in last year’s draft after he fell all the way to the seventh round. I mean, the guy set the career record for receptions at THE Ohio State University, so why wouldn’t he get selected earlier? In the end, the reservations about his speed (4.60) may have been what kept him off the field for the likes of Guyton and T-Billy. He did, however, finish the season as the team’s starting punt returner after the team traded away Desmond King. His final stat lines, both on offense and special teams, included seven catches for 73 yards and 12 punt returns for 83 yards.

Lastly, we have Jason Moore and John Hurst. Moore was a former UDFA out of Division II Findlay Univerisity in Ohio. He saw action in a few games as a rookie in 2019, catching two passes for 43 yards, but proceeded to spend the majority of the 2020 season on the practice squad.

Hurst was signed by the Chargers around midseason this past year in an attempt to find some better special teams players. The former West Georgia wideout hasn’t recorded any meaningful statistics as a professional but he’s mostly known for being a high-effort guy in the third phase of the game.

Free Agent(s): None

With the emergence of both Guyton and T-Billy, I don’t expect the Chargers to add any extra wideouts as free agents or in the draft. This could change if new head coach Brandon Staley wants his own style of receivers in the offense he plans to build, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them stay put at the position by the end of the offseason.