Chargers 2024 offseason position preview: Wide receiver

The Chargers’ wide receiver room is at an inflection point in the 2024 offseason. The consequences of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams’ restructures from last season take effect now, with both having $30+ million cap hits in their final contract years.

It’s decision time in that regard. Allen is probably a safe bet to remain with the team. In theory, the Chargers can find a way to keep both if they want to with the league’s unprecedented cap spike. However, Williams will head into his age 30 season off of a torn ACL with a new regime that neither drafted nor extended him.

Outside of the big money duo at the top of the receiver room, Josh Palmer enters a contract year. The former third-round 2021 draft pick has been solid when healthy, but struggled with a knee injury last season that forced him to miss time on an extended IR stint.

Perhaps the biggest question mark outside of the ones mentioned above is 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston. Will a new brain trust believe in his future development and a second-year breakout for the former TCU star? Or will Joe Hortiz in company look to the draft to reshape their wide receiver room again with talent at the top of the draft?

In continuing our offseason position preview series, let’s turn to the wide receiver room entering the offseason.

Under contract

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Keenan Allen ($34.7 million cap hit)

Mike Williams ($32.5 million cap hit)

Josh Palmer ($3.4 million cap hit)

Quentin Johnston ($3.2 million cap hit)

Derius Davis ($1.09 million cap hit)

Simi Fehoko ($1.06 million cap hit)

As mentioned earlier, the main wide receiver room quandary for Joe Hortiz to solve this offseason is what to do with the cap hits of Allen and Williams. Both are accounting for well over $30+ million on the cap sheet and it seems unsustainable if the Chargers are to achieve cap compliancy.

The Chargers have a few options. Extensions for either main receiver would lower their 2024 cap sheet numbers. As it stands right now, my assumption is that an extension would be more likely for Allen in his current form than Williams. Either way, an extension could help lower the ’24 hits below $30 million.

Cuts and trades have to be at least thought of as options for any of the big four restructured contract members. With a cap spike, would there be a team willing to trade for Williams if the Chargers didn’t extend him? That’s a little murky given how positively this wide receiver draft class seems to be viewed leaguewide. A cut/trade of Williams would save LA $20 million against the cap. For Allen hypothetically, the savings for him in the same scenario would be roughly $23 million.

Ultimately, the betting odds based on their 2023 seasons and injury histories respectively would favor Allen sticking around in the Jim Harbaugh era more than they would Williams. But retaining both is possible in theory.

Palmer enters a contract year as he looks to beat the injury bug that cost him over a months’ worth of games in 2023. It’s unfortunate that the knee issue flared up as much as it did. Analyzing Palmer’s production from last season, his 17 game pace would produce 65 receptions, 988 yards, and three touchdowns. 988 yards would’ve beaten his 2022 yardage single-season career high by well over 200 yards.

Johnston is the WR room variable that’s hard to know exactly what to do with in analyzing his 2024 outlook. After an underwhelming 2023 plagued by drops and subpar separation creation, does a new Harbaugh regime believe in him as an active contributor? Last month, Harbaugh and Johnston supposedly spoke about his potential to contribute and brakout.

But would faith in Johnston be so strong that it prevents Hortiz and Harbaugh from drafting Malik Nabers, Marvin Harrison Jr., or Rome Odunze in the first round? Or a receiver within the first two days of the draft in general? That remains to be seen.

2023 Pro Bowl Alternate Derius Davis will return primarily in his special teams role under Ryan Ficken. Simi Fehoko was signed to a futures deal with the Chargers to return to training camp next year.

Pending free agents

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

WR Jalen Guyton

WR Alex Erickson

WR Keelan Doss

Jalen Guyton is the most significant name of the free agent group. After successive years of explosiveness and great production with Herbert prior to 2022, Guyton unfortunately tore his ACL just three games into that season’s campaign.

His injury recovery limited him to just eight games in 2023. Not including his 2022 season, the North Texas product finished the year with a career low 89 yards on ten receptions. For what it’s worth, it was also his lowest graded PFF offensive season.

Perhaps he’ll eventually be back in the receiver room on some type of low risk camp contract next year, but the days of Guyton being a consistent game to game contributor and receiving threat are over.

Alex Erickson put up 232 yards last season and finished with a few solid moments on tape to end the year. The New England and Denver games come to mind. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a shot at coming to training camp purely for competition.

Keelan Doss largely was stashed on the practice squad last year with a few elevations.

2024 Outlook

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire