Chargers are deep at tight end and receiver, but there’s one missing piece


As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Times will examine their roster. Part 6 of 8: receivers.

When the Chargers were on the clock in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, they thought they had lucked into a perfect situation.

Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams was still on the board — a big-time playmaker with big-game experience to match a prototypical NFL frame.


“You can’t have enough playmakers, and he made plays all throughout college,” coach Anthony Lynn said after the pick. “I love the way he competes, I love all his intangibles. … You just can’t have enough good players. We’ll definitely find a role for him.”

They definitely didn’t. Make that, couldn’t.

Williams suffered a back injury in rookie minicamp and didn’t practice during the preseason, putting him far behind when it came to finding a spot in the offense.

He debuted in Week 6, making a big catch against the Raiders, and four games later caught five balls and looked like he finally was on the right track in a blowout win over Buffalo.

But one week later he injured his knee in the first quarter and only caught two more passes the rest of the season.

Williams is healthy now and still possesses the physical tools that warranted picking him No. 7 overall.

His development, along with that of third-year tight end Hunter Henry and a healthy Keenan Allen, could give quarterback Philip Rivers options galore.


The team also has returning speedsters Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. Add in new tight end Virgil Green, a great blocker who the Chargers also think can contribute in the passing game, and this group is simply one of the best on the team.There’s not a lot of work to be done here.

Receivers under contract: Keenan Allen ($9.65 million), Travis Benjamin ($7 million), Mike Williams ($4.49 million), Tyrell Williams ($2.91 million), Geremy Davis ($726,250), Andre Patton ($480,000), Artavis Scott ($480,000), Hunter Henry ($1.74 million), Virgil Green ($1.8 million), Sean Culkin ($559,000), Braedon Bowman ($555,000).

Free agents: The Chargers don’t really need a receiver, but there’s a tight end available who could make some sense. He’s a proven red zone threat and familiar with the team’s offense and quarterback. But no one seems to know what Antonio Gates wants to do. Does he still want to play? Will he do it for a palatable salary? Gates, 37, made $5.4 million last season. If the team makes a move, Gates is the sentimental choice.

Draft: The Chargers could take a tight end since Gates is still unsigned. Kick returner is a need, so maybe there’s a receiver available who also could fill that need. But considering how the roster stands, the Chargers should probably pass on picking receivers.

the draft additions.

Roster decisions: The boldest decisions concern Tyrell Williams and Benjamin. The Chargers could clear a big chunk of salary-cap space if they cut Benjamin, but he has a unique role on offense and special teams. Trading Williams is the more exciting option because if the young receivers develop, he could be an attractive asset that could land help at safety or draft picks. Standing pat is the most likely scenario, but if the Chargers want to get creative, they’ve got options.

NEXT: Quarterbacks.


Twitter: @DanWoikeSports