A look at the potential of Sammy Watkins returning to the Chiefs beyond 2020.
It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that wide receiver Sammy Watkins was gone after the Super Bowl last year from the Kansas City Chiefs. He got his ring. He was making a ton of money. The Chiefs needed to cut some cap space.
As it turns out, after a tumultuous offseason where pretty much only Randall Cobb got the money he was expecting for a wide receiver (shoutout to Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien), Watkins is back on a restructured deal. While it is largely assumed this will be (for sure) his final season in Kansas City given his restructure allows him to hit free agency next spring, it’s worth exploring whether there’s a case to bring Watkins back once again.
Watkins has thrived in this Kansas City offense (when healthy, I’ll touch on this more later) and works best as an elite No. 2 receiver. He has shown glimpses, at times, that he can handle being an offense’s top wideout, but being the No. 2 guy—sometimes No. 3 behind tight end Kelce—opens up a lot of room for him and takes the pressure off.
As someone who has been injured a good amount throughout his career, not having to carry the weight to play through nagging injuries that could cause major issues helps. I think of him like a prized racehorse. If there is something off, he won’t go and that is fine. With wide receiver Tyreek Hill, Kelce, and the emergence of fellow wideout Mecole Hardman, Watkins can afford to take a game off to get right and avoid the potential catastrophic injury.
Watkins is the catalyst who takes the Chiefs offense to unreal heights. He is so explosive, when teams try to double Hill or key in on Kelce, Watkins can get his as we have seen on multiple occasions. Not only does Mahomes trust him, since he was practically the only guy that was productive early in some of the playoff games, but he has the veteran presence that can go unnoticed. He understands he could put up better numbers elsewhere but the injury concerns and lack of production when he was a No. 1 could be in the way of other teams making that move.
There have been reports from the New York Post that he wasn’t going to take a pay cut and wants a bigger role in the offense this upcoming season. Well, we saw that he took a decrease already. Maybe that has more to do with the weirdness of the offseason than anything, but after recent articles surfaced about his mental battles and beliefes, a great organization like Kansas City is a good fit.
With Hill, Kelce, and the potential of getting Hardman more involved, heWatkinsis not going to be the main weapon. What will allow him to hit the 1,000-yard threshold is staying healthy. He will get enough looks in this offense, and many of them will be 1-on-1 mismatches against non-elite corners. Watkins will not find that on other teams.
If Watkins stays healthy, he will have ample opportunity to be a huge factor in this offense, especially in the intermediate routes, going forward. Full disclosure: I am big on Hardman getting more opportunities this season and think he can eventually step into the No. 2 role. I also think Watkins brings a bigger body and can open some other routes up in the offense.
While Watkins will want to get paid, which will be a factor in if he stays or leaves, demand from other teams will play the biggest factor overall. Wide receivers did not get the money they were expecting this offseason, and with an incredibly deep 2020 draft at that position, the market is flooded with potential. 2021 is supposed to have some very good draft options as well, so the market may be depressed for a couple of seasons.
While everybody is assuming Sammy Watkins is automatically gone again, I think an incentive-laden contract like this season is great for him. It gives him the opportunity to make massive money while also allowing Kansas City to not go over the salary cap if injuries pile up.
While the odds of him in Kansas City past this season are slim, there is more of a shot than we originally thought of him sticking around. The positives for both sides are there and we have seen Veach try and keep the starters together to run it back. If the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl Champions, wouldn’t both sides want to keep things the same?