On Friday, Sammy Watkins’ tenure with the K.C. Chiefs officially came to an end when the free agent wide receiver signed a one-year deal to join the Baltimore Ravens in free agency after also receiving interest and taking visits with other teams. By closing the door on a return to K.C., Watkins wrapped up a three-year stint that was polarizing for Chiefs Kingdom, a tenure marked by dynamism and disappointment in equal parts.
Even heading into this offseason, after yet another injury-plagued season in 2020, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach remarked that he was still interested in Watkins and was open to a return from the former first-round pick. Watkins himself seemed amenable to the idea as well as free agency approached. Typically when both sides are up for coming together, a bridge is built.
The very idea of Sammy Watkins‘ return, however, drew impassioned responses from fans—a sign of the polarizing nature of watching (or not, to be literal) Watkins play for the Chiefs.
On the surface, the Ravens got a potential steal and the cost should have every team interested in what Watkins can bring to the table. it’s the same sort of deal that cornerback Jason Verrett would sign—a single season for a few million that’s worth the potential loss for the sake of the bonus it brings. But when a team has been betting on the same space time and again, it usually leads to a need to get up, stretch your legs, and find a new table on which to place a wager.
On the one hand, it’s impossible for even the most ardent supporters of Watkins to deny the frustrations caused by his consistent health concerns. Coming into his time with the Chiefs, Watkins was already considered injury prone despite his potential big play ability. In 2018, his first year with the Chiefs, he went down with a foot injury in November and went on to miss 6 total games on the year.
Sammy Watkins’ three-year stint with K.C. Chiefs was polarizing for fans.
In 2019, the see-saw tipped in the opposite direction as the Chiefs offense became unstoppable for any NFL defense. Even with their backs against the wall, the Chiefs put together a string of historic double-digit comebacks throughout a postseason to remember to take their first NFL title in 50 seasons. Watkins was a huge part of that, a physical, sure-handed beast who was impossible to bring down in the open field. Combined with pass catchers like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs had an unparalleled array of weapons at their disposal and the results spoke for themselves.
Unfortunately ’20 would bring the same injury concerns to the surface for the Chiefs. After playing in 14 games in ’19, Watkins would miss another six games in 2020 with a calf injury, an issue that also took him out of the postseason entirely—save for some meaningless snaps in the Super Bowl in which he was only targeted once with the game long decided.
Heading into the postseason, the scales had tipped once again toward the frustrating side. The dynamism added by Watkins when healthy had instead turned to disappointment at a player who was unreliable. After three years of a “will he or won’t he?” game, Chiefs Kingdom was ready to move on.
Moving forward, Watkins will now hope to stay healthy for the Ravens and re-enter the open market on the upswing. Chiefs fans know well what he can add, but the questions became greater than the answers he could provide. That’s unfortunate because Watkins truly is a considerable talent capable of being a go-to target when called upon. It’s just that his body is not always up the job.
While his tenure with the Chiefs was polarizing, the truth is that a Lombardi Trophy serves as evidence that, at his best, Watkins added something truly lasting to the Kingdom.