Much of the New England Patriots‘ struggles in 2019 can be traced back to an offense strapped for firepower at the skill positions, incapable of overcoming any deficiencies of its now 42-year-old leader. While Tom Brady’s impending free agent decision will drastically affect the direction of New England’s offseason, the team is expected to bolster its available weapons, partially in an effort to retain Brady’s services.
On Monday, Sports Illustrated senior NFL reporter Albert Breer wrote that the Patriots are “sniffing around the trade market for receivers and tight ends.” As a follow up exercise, CBS Sports highlighted five pass catchers that make sense for the Patriots to target in a trade.
The list was comprised of four former first-round draft picks, including Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. Aside from the notably-named superstar wideout, one of the most intriguing options presented was Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams.
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Here is what CBS Sports NFL writer Jordan Dajani had to say:
Everyone knows about Keenan Allen when it comes to the Los Angeles Chargers’ receiving corps, but if you’ve watched this team over the past few years, you understand that Williams is an emerging star in this league. While he caught just two touchdowns in 2019 after recording 10 in 2018, he set career highs with 49 receptions and 1,001 receiving yards. The Chargers are going through a bit of a rebuild, and have already announced that Philip Rivers will not be on roster next season. I’d call the Chargers to see if we could strike a deal and then turn Williams into the NFL’s next star wideout. He’s young, athletic and ready for a big opportunity.
Drafted by the Chargers with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Williams will enter his fourth professional season in 2020. In his first season as a full-time starter, the former Clemson star posted his first 1,000-yard campaign last year and has racked up 103 receptions, 1,703 yards and 12 touchdowns in 41 career games (21 starts).
While there is no questioning the immense level of talent that Williams possesses, the name of the game with the 6’4,” 220-pound playmaker has been availability. During the first game of his junior season at Clemson, Williams suffered a small neck fracture in a scary collision with the goalpost while making a touchdown catch. After sitting out the remainder of the 2015 season, he returned to the tune of 98 catches, 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final collegiate season before declaring for the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Williams’ Chargers career didn’t get off to a fast start either as he was diagnosed with a mild disc herniation in his lower back on the first day of rookie minicamp, causing him to miss the first five weeks of the regular season.
Williams’ anticipated $6.2 million cap hit for 2020 is certainly manageable for a Chargers team that currently has over $55 million of salary cap spending at their disposal, per Spotrac. However, the AFC West basement dwellers are expected to field a new-look offense after parting ways with long-time franchise QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon. In the event L.A. is open to exploring a deal for their budding star, Williams’ age and potential should give the Chargers leverage to command a mid-to-high draft pick (at the least). But for a team like the Patriots who have seen mediocre success drafting wide receivers in recent years, the future payoff could be well worth the heightened price tag.
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