The Los Angeles Chargers have joined the rest of the NFL in hitting off 2023 OTAs, but one of their top wide receiving options, Mike Williams, remains absent from the team. His health and future have now resurfaced as major questions for the upcoming season.
‘No Peep’ From Chargers WR Mike Williams
The last time Bolts fans saw Williams was in Week 18 when he sustained a back injury in what many deemed a meaningless game for the veteran WR to play in.
On Jan. 13, via ESPN Chargers reporter Lindsey Thiry, the wideout discovered he had a small non-surgical fracture in his back. The original time period for him to be out was expected to be between 2-3 weeks.
However, doctor of physical therapy Jeff Mueller did not see Williams at Chargers OTAs on Tuesday.
“Absolutely no peep about Mike Williams so far, other than it’s four months later, and he’s not able to participate at OTAs,” Mueller said, with his next three words being, “Makes you wonder…”
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Mueller was then asked if he had heard anything about Williams simply taking a leave of absence due to his back or if this may become a situation where the former Clemson WR may not be in good standing with the Chargers organization.
Williams is entering two more seasons of his current deal with the Chargers, which pays him $60 million. He doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2025 but has a potential opt-out clause for 2024, per Spotrac.
Could Williams Become a Cut Candidate?
Mueller isn’t one who believes the Chargers would immediately part ways with their WR of seven seasons.
“Unlikely that they cut him,” Mueller said. “I was thinking, if MW did require back surgery, it increases his risk going into 2023, and Quentin Johnston should probably be drafted higher than he currently is for this coming season.”
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But bringing up the first-rounder’s name now brings forth this thought: Perhaps there’s a deeper meaning to the Johnston pick.
Johnston is walking into a Chargers WR room with a decorated veteran in Keenan Allen and the two-time 1,000-yard Williams. The original thought from many fans and analysts was that Johnston was going to start out as the WR3 for the Bolts in 2023 before ultimately taking the reins as the top WR as Allen and Williams get older.
Now, the Chargers may be in a situation where Johnston becomes the focal point right away, given Williams’ injury status and Allen’s age. There’s already the thought from Noel Sanchez of The Charger Report that both veteran wideouts are on their last routes together.
And Williams’ unavailability comes during a time when the Chargers are welcoming back Austin Ekeler, as the versatile star running back on Tuesday opted to return to the team for one more year following an offseason of demanding a trade. Now, the Bolts have one more veteran situation to address, and it may be much more than Williams’ injured back that the Bolts are facing ahead of the 2023 season.