Throughout the offseason, there’s been talk of Watkins either taking a pay cut to stay in KC or walking away from football for at least one season. Watkins went with the former option. Under the terms of his old deal, Watkins was set to earn $14MM – an outsized sum given his role in the Chiefs’ stacked offense. Now, he’ll make $9MM in base salary with the potential to earn another $7MM through incentives, as Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter). Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network lays out most of those incentives, which are as follows (Twitter link):
- Eight TDs and Chiefs make playoffs: $750K
- 65 catches + playoffs: $750K
- 800 yards + playoffs: $750k
- AFC Championship Game win (50% snaps in game): $1.25MM
- 65 catches + AFC Championship Game win: $1.25MM
- 800 yards + AFC Championship Game win: $1.25MM
Those incentives “only” total $6MM, so assuming Paylor’s report is accurate, there is another $1MM incentives to be had, perhaps based on non-playoff-related milestones. If Watkins hits those incentives, he could earn up to $16MM, so in theory, his pay cut could actually wind up as a pay raise. At his best and healthiest in Buffalo, Watkins was a world-class offensive weapon. In KC, Watkins competes for targets with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and other dangerous receivers, which makes it a little trickier to hit statistical markers.
There are two other major pluses to the new deal: it includes a no-trade clause, and it allows Watkins to hit unrestricted free agency next year at the age of 27. If he has a big year, he could cash in on a lucrative multi-year contract with the Chiefs or another club in need of a deep threat. Watkins has hauled in at least 40 catches for 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He’s also shined in the postseason with an average of 92.8 receiving yards in five playoff games for the Chiefs.
Loaded with talent – especially on Watkins’ side of the ball – the Chiefs have mostly managed to keep the band together. They’ll bring back ten of their eleven offensive starters from the Super Bowl and eight of their nine best receivers, as Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes. The Watkins restructure will help them to fortify a little bit. The Chiefs had next-to-zero cap room before the adjustment; they now have $5MM in breathing room.