As the New England Patriots look to add wide receiver help in free agency this offseason, let Tyrell Williams serve as a cautionary tale.
The Las Vegas Raiders signed Williams to a four-year, $44 million contract and cut the lanky wide receiver Wednesday just two years into the deal. Buying high on a player comes with its disadvantages.
Williams was solid in his first year with the Raiders, catching 42 passes for 651 yards with six touchdowns in 2019, but tore his labrum last offseason and missed the entire 2020 season.
Now, however, Williams could be a decent buy-low candidate for the wide receiver-needy Patriots before free agency begins in March. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound wideout is a free agent and can be signed at any time.
Williams, 29, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon in 2015. He broke out as a second-year pro with the then-San Diego Chargers, totaling 69 catches for 1,059 yards with seven touchdowns. He hasn’t been able to replicate that 1,000-yard season in his four ensuing campaigns, but he did have over 650 yards in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He also stood out in the Chargers’ 2018 divisional-round loss to the Patriots when he caught five passes on seven targets for 94 yards.
The Patriots should be looking into any and every available wide receiver this offseason with just Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Marqise Lee, Devin Smith, Kristian Wilkerson and Isaiah Zuber signed for the 2021 season.
Williams won’t come close to signing a contract worth $11 million per year this offseason, and while the Patriots should aim higher than a receiver of his caliber, they do need better low-end starting and depth options in their offense, as well. If New England signed Williams, it also should try looking for a potential “No. 1” pass-catching target, whether that’s at wide receiver or tight end.
Williams ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash with a 6.74-second 3-cone drill, 4.17-second short shuttle, 39.5-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 7-inch broad jump at Oregon State’s pro day in 2015. He’s proven to be a starting-caliber pass-catcher who can play outside or as a big slot, and his combination of size, speed, agility and leaping ability is appealing.
Williams was one of the NFL’s better deep threats in 2018 when he registered nine catches on 17 targets of 20 yards or more for 348 yards (13th in the NFL) with three touchdowns. He finished 15th in deep receiving yards in 2016 and 19th in the same category in 2017. Harry gives the Patriots a size element at wide receiver, but they’re currently lacking speed and big-play ability.
Williams wouldn’t be the most exciting offseason addition, but truly, the Patriots should look into adding any receiver help that comes available. And they might get a pretty good deal on a wideout who was valued at $11 million per season just two years ago.