Despite what you might hear about the K.C. Chiefs in free agency this year, there are actually two wide receivers who could potentially leave the team—not just Sammy Watkins. Both Watkins and Demarcus Robinson are slated to hit the open market once again, which means general manager Brett Veach faces key decisions about both players. Whether it’s fair or not, Robinson’s pending free agency has largely been lost on Chiefs Kingdom this spring.
Robinson first joined the Chiefs back in the 2016 NFL Draft and he’s become known as the “receiver taken before Tyreek Hill” in that span of time. Robinson entered the league as an athletic target with character concerns (multiple suspensions) from the University of Florida, and John Dorsey (the team’s GM in those days) decided to bolster the overall speed of the offense with back to back picks of Robinson and Hill.
Robinson played out his initial rookie contract with the Chiefs through 2019 and then hit free agency last year, but he failed to generate the sort of multi-year deal that found former Chiefs receivers like Albert Wilson or Chris Conley. Instead, he decided to “run it back” with the team in 2020 by returning to the Chiefs on an inexpensive single-season deal after generating interest from the likes of Green Bay. The move positioned him to show what he can do (once again) with one of the NFL’s highest-profile teams and re-enter the market the following year. Unfortunately that year unfolded in a global pandemic, which means he’s going to have a hard time finding more money this year.
Through five seasons, Robinson has 120 catches for 1,415 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Chiefs.
The case for coming back
Last year, the emphasis from the front office was very clear: keep the band together as long as possible. Not only did the team find room in the budget for high-ticket items like Chris Jones, but they also brought back role players like Robinson and Mike Pennel. The Chiefs have yet to make any big moves this offseason, so it’s hard to tell what their focus will be, but it’s quite possible that they view back-to-back Super Bowl appearances as good enough reason to keep everyone together for another run if the players are up for it.
That could mean good things for Robinson who is still only 26 years old. Robinson caught a career-best 76 percent of his targets last season while also setting personal highs in catches (45) and receiving yards (466). It’s also notable that Robinson has never missed a single game in his NFL career. He gives the Chiefs a familiar face who is also becoming more reliable while still being plenty young enough to warrant another re-signing if the market doesn’t blossom the way he likely hopes.
The case for letting go
For many fans, they’ve already moved on. Watkins and Robinson are both up for free agency, and the team needs to add another solid target or two—likely in free agency or the draft. The unknown commodity is always the sexiest for fans, so it’s easy to understand from that perspective why Chiefs Kingdom feels like they’ve already moved on.
If the Chiefs felt as if Robinson was a solid bet to step up, they wouldn’t have paid so much money to Sammy Watkins over the years or traded up to get Mecole Hardman in 2019. Instead, the Chiefs continue to invest at wide receiver in ways that spell out something about Robinson, too. Namely, Robinson is fine as an option down the depth chart a bit, but the team clearly wouldn’t want to lean on him for more than he’s given them thus far.
The likelihood of a return: 20 percent
It might be best for all parties involved to simply move on at this stage, Robinson entered the league with weakened draft stock due to previous marijuana charges and violating team rules, but he’s been a model citizen since entering the NFL, and his athletic profile would have made him a much earlier pick than the fourth round if not for the baggage. Some team could enjoy a solid return on a low-level investment if they were able to feature Robinson in a way the Chiefs have not. Then again, it’s also possible the Chiefs liked what they saw from Robinson last year in terms of a minor leap forward and will give him an offer to consider once again.