The Detroit Lions are signing free agent Tyrell Williams to a one-year deal and reuniting him with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. The full details of the deal are not out yet, but reports suggest he’ll have a base salary of $4.7 million and the contract is worth up to $6.2 million. Williams spent his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, and his two years playing for then-head coach Lynn were some of the most successful of his career.
Williams (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) made a name for himself as a big-play deep threat with the Chargers and parlayed that into a four-year, $44-million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Williams found success early with the Raiders but a heel injury impacted his 2019 season, then his 2020 season was lost due to a shoulder injury. The Raiders moved on from him in a cap-saving move (freeing up $10.6 million) and he was free to sign with any team ahead of the free agency period.
It’s worth noting that, despite the big contract, the Raiders signed him as a complement to Antonio Brown. After Brown’s untimely departure from the team, Williams was pushed into the top role and was often matched up with the opponent’s best cover corner—which could have also played a factor in his dip in production in 2019.
At 29 years old and coming off two seasons where injury limited or removed him from the field altogether, Williams’ price tag dropped in half, though he appears to have incentives built into the contract—the full details of which are not available at this time.
A sensational athlete, Williams is a field stretcher who presents as a difficult matchup for defensive backs, and his ability to separate on average with the rest of the league is a nice upgrade from what we have seen in recent years.
Average yards of separation (per @NextGenStats)
Tyrell Williams: 2.6
Kenny Golladay: 1.9
Marvin Jones: 2.1
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) March 3, 2021
Williams has the clear potential to start for the Lions at one of their outside receiver spots. But make no mistake, his career production (only one season with more than 43 receptions and 728 yards) points to him taking over the Marvin Jones role as the team’s No. 2 receiver and will likely not impact the Lions’ plans for Kenny Golladay.
Williams has plenty of talent when healthy and could be a very productive player in Detroit, as long as he is put in the right situation to succeed.
Here’s an example of his athleticism coming into play, making a catch over a defender:
Another angle in slow motion:
This was a sweet catch by Chargers WR Tyrell Williams. He also made a great effort play on a key 3rd down conversion & was very effective as a blocker in the run game. Good week for him. pic.twitter.com/G0oUYqClpN
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 5, 2018
Here’s an example of his using his frame to catch a back-shoulder touchdown:
Williams can also contribute as a blocker:
The final details on his contract will likely play a factor in determining how much value the Lions got in this deal, but the initial indicators based on his upside are positive.