Mike Williams won’t play a full rookie season, but the Chargers are hoping that their first-round pick will be healthy enough to return in the next few weeks.
Sidelined since May with a herniated disc in his lower back, Williams has only been healthy enough to sprint on his own during practices. But on Saturday, the Chargers placed the No. 7 overall pick on their 53-man roster — taking him off the physically unable to perform list, and leaving open the possibility of him making his NFL debut within the next month or two.
— Mike Williams (@darealmike_dub) September 2, 2017
Had Williams stayed on the PUP list to open the regular season, the former Clemson star would not have been eligible to play until Week 7.
“He has a chance to continue to get better and play that fourth, fifth week,” head coach Anthony Lynn said recently. “If we put him down, we may not see him until midway through the season.”
But the decision comes with a cost too. Taking Williams off the PUP list means that he will take up a roster spot while sitting on the bench, bumping off a less-talented teammate who would have otherwise been available for next Monday’s season opener in Denver.
Some notable casualties of Saturday’s final cut deadline: veteran safety Dwight Lowery, a 31-year-old who was due $2 million in base salary; kicker Josh Lambo, who was unsteady last season and failed to separate himself enough from undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo; and defensive lineman Caraun Reid, a Princeton product whom the Chargers claimed off waivers a year ago.
The Chargers also released veteran quarterback Kellen Clemens, keeping second-year pro Cardale Jones on the roster behind Philip Rivers. According to a source, however, the team intends to re-sign Clemens. Parting with him now allows the team more roster flexibility as they comb through the waiver wire. If Clemens isn’t re-signed for Week 1, his contract won’t be guaranteed.
Several undrafted rookies also earned their keep. Western State Colorado’s Austin Ekeler, who totaled 108 yards from scrimmage in Thursday’s preseason finale, is now the Chargers’ No. 3 tailback behind Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver. Linebackers James Onwualu (Notre Dame) and Nigel Harris (South Florida) also made the cut, as did former Missouri tight end Sean Culkin.
Bad news can take time to digest. Case in point: cornerback Trovon Reed, who intercepted two passes for the Chargers last season, but has been sidelined for the past…