Quez Watkins

Steelers WR Quez Watkins Eyeing Starting Role?

The Steelers have made a number of changes at the receiver position this offseason, and the departures of Diontae Johnson (traded) and Allen Robinson (released) has left plenty of playing time available. Quez Watkins is among the newcomers aiming to secure a first-team role this summer.

The 25-year-old spent his first four seasons with the Eagles, serving as a deep threat. Watkins’ best season came in 2021, when he posted 647 yards and one touchdown on 43 catches. The development of DeVonta Smith and the arrival of A.J. Brown cut heavily into his playing time, and his production dropped over the past two years. Pittsburgh could provide Watkins with a new opportunity, though.

“For me, when I saw they traded Diontae, it was a great opportunity to potentially be a No. 2 or whatever they want me to do,” the former sixth-rounder said (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “It’s a good opportunity to compete for that spot.”

Johnson consistently served as a focal point in the Steelers’ passing, drawing no fewer than 87 targets in each of his five seasons with the team. Per his request, he was traded away, though, paving the way for George Pickens to operate as Pittsburgh’s clear-cut WR1 moving forward. The pecking order beyond that is in the air, with 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin in place as a another returnee capable of logging first-team snaps.

Pittsburgh has added Van Jefferson and Scotty Miller this offseason; both of those veterans have worked with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith before. The team also used the draft as a means of adding a pass-catcher, selecting Roman Wilson in the third round. Watkins will be competing with each of those players for a starting position or at least a rotational role in the WR room.

Given the lack of established receivers already on the depth chart, the Steelers have been connected to another acquisition late in the offseason. Pittsburgh was one of the reported suitors for Deebo Samuel, but neither he nor fellow 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk is believed to be on the block anymore. The free agent pool includes the likes of Michael Thomas, Mecole Hardman and Hunter Renfrow, and the Steelers could look to sign one of them if they feel an addition is needed. For now, though, Watkins and the new arrivals will compete for roster spots and significant snaps.

Steelers To Sign WR Quez Watkins

The Steelers entered the second phase of free agency in need of a wide receiver addition, and the team is now set to make one. Quez Watkins has agreed to a deal with Pittsburgh, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports.

Watkins played out his rookie contract with the Eagles, and his tenure with the team included flashes of potential as a vertical threat. He recorded 43 catches for 647 yards in 2021, but since then his role has diminished. With both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in place atop the WR depth chart, it comes as little surprise Philadelphia allowed Watkins to depart in free agency.

The 25-year-old was on the Dolphins’ radar as part of Miami’s efforts to add a No. 3 option in the passing game. Instead of heading to South Beach, Watkins will join a Steelers’ offense which has undergone plenty of changes recently. Diontae Johnson was traded to the Panthers not long after Allen Robinson was released, creating a pair of notable vacancies at the receiver spot in advance of the draft.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said at the annual league meetings (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic) wide receiver and center were high on the team’s list of remaining priorities. That comment has now been quickly followed up by an agreement with Watkins, who has averaged 12.7 yards per catch in his career but only drew 72 targets across the past two seasons. He will aim to carve out a larger role in Pittsburgh than he had in recent years in Philadelphia.

The former sixth-rounder will join a WR room led by George Pickens and Calvin Austin, both of whom are on their rookie contracts. The former led the league with an average of 18.1 yards per catch last season, one in which he totaled 1,140 yards and five touchdowns. He will aim to duplicate that success in an offense which now features Russell Wilson and Justin Fields at quarterback and which saw the arrival of Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator.

Watkins has 25 starts to his name, 12 of which came in his career-best 2021 season. He could hold down first-team duties with the Steelers in 2024, although the draft will provide Pittsburgh (a team with a well-earned reputation for developing talent at the position) with plenty of opportunities to add a rookie receiver. Even if the team is active on that front next month, Watkins will be able to provide experienced depth on his new Pennsylvania-based team.

Dolphins Looking To Add At WR

The Dolphins have been extremely active in free agency, both losing and attaining several players with expired contracts. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, after all their recent developments, wide receiver has become a position of focus.

The Dolphins are by no means short of talent at the wide receiver position. Between Tyreek Hill‘s incredible season in which he hit over 1,800 total yards and caught 13 touchdown passes and Jaylen Waddle hitting the 1,000-yard receiving mark with four touchdowns of his own, Miami has more receiving talent in those two alone than many other NFL teams have on their roster right now.

Beyond Hill and Waddle, though, the statistics drop off dramatically. After those two, the receivers with the next most yardage were Cedrick Wilson with 296, Braxton Berrios with 238, Robbie Chosen with 126, River Cracraft with 121, and Chase Claypool with 26. All five of those receivers hit free agency when the new league year began. Wilson is headed to New Orleans on a new two-year deal, while Berrios recently re-signed with the Dolphins on a one-year contract. Currently, Hill, Waddle, and Berrios are the only three wideouts on the roster who caught a pass for the Dolphins in 2023.

The team does have interior options on the roster, but they aren’t necessarily experienced and have yet to show they can step up. Erik Ezukanma, a fourth-round pick out of Texas Tech from 2022, is also under contract. Former third-round speedster Anthony Schwartz and undrafted receivers Braylon Sanders and Mathew Sexton all signed reserve/futures contracts with the team, as well.

Still, Miami desires a bit more upside and experience behind its elite duo. One name that Jackson reports they’ve inquired about is former Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins. Watkins served as WR2 for Philadelphia in the year before they acquired A.J. Brown but has since taken a back seat. 2023 saw his worst season since his rookie year, but in both of those years, he missed several games. He dealt with hamstring issues last year that held him to only nine game appearances.

Whether Watkins is the guy or they continue exploring other options, it’s clear that the Dolphins need more behind Hill and Waddle. They will continue shopping the free agent market and are likely to target the position through the draft, as well. For now, though, Hill, Waddle, and Berrios represent the totality of their experience.

Eagles Activate WR Quez Watkins From IR

NOVEMBER 25: It didn’t take long for the Eagles to officially activate Watkins. They are doing so today in time for tomorrow’s matchup against the Bills. With Watkins returning to the fold, Philadelphia now has their full assortments of receivers for a difficult stretch of the schedule. Having the whole receiving corps available is a huge plus as Hurts will be without tight ends Goedert and Grant Calcaterra for at least this upcoming game.

Tight end Noah Togiai will be brought up from the practice squad as a standard gameday elevation to help fill out a thin tight ends position. Joining him as a gameday elevation tomorrow will be practice squad linebacker Ben VanSumeren.

NOVEMBER 22: The NFL’s only one-loss team is moving closer to having its full wideout corps back at work. Quez Watkins returned to Eagles practice Wednesday, opening his 21-day activation window.

Placed on IR after suffering a hamstring injury, Watkins has been sidelined for longer than the IR-minimum requirement. The Philadelphia slot receiver has missed the past five games.

During Watkins’ absence, the Eagles added Julio Jones to their A.J. Brown– and DeVonta Smith-fronted wideout crew. Playing 82 snaps during his four-game run with the defending NFC champions, Jones has four receptions for 16 yards. Prior to Watkins’ injury, the fourth-year receiver was struggling to make an impact as well. Watkins will eventually come off IR with a four-catch, 21-yard stat line.

This is a contract year for Watkins, a 2020 sixth-round pick, and he will need to produce more to command a notable deal in free agency. Watkins did deliver more impressive work in the past. During Jalen Hurts‘ first season — one that became a run-leaning operation as Shane Steichen took over play-calling — Watkins posted a career-high 647 receiving yards. Once the Eagles traded for Brown during the 2022 draft, Watkins’ role took a hit. He finished last season with 354 yards — at just 10.7 per reception.

The Eagles also have Olamide Zaccheaus as a slot option; the ex-Falcon has just six receptions for 87 yards this year. With Dallas Goedert out, the Eagles could certainly use a viable third wideout. And it is worth wondering how frequently the team will use Watkins now that Jones is on the roster. The 8-1 team has six IR activations remaining this season. Goedert would not count toward this total, as the team is not planning to place its top tight end on IR.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/14/23

Here are today’s minor transactions heading into the Week 6 weekend:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Dean took the starting role the Eagles had in store for him in Week 1, but a foot injury interrupted his second NFL campaign. The 22-year-old was poised to return ahead of Sunday’s game by returning to practice earlier this week, though, and a first-team role is expected to await him upon suiting up. Dean taking on a heavy workload will relegate Nicholas Morrow (who was promoted from the practice squad) to backup duty despite the latter’s strong performances so far.

Seattle has seen fellow corners Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen enjoy considerable success, but the team’s secondary will be shorthanded without Bryant. The latter will miss at least the next four weeks as a result of the IR move as he recovers from a toe injury. The 2022 fourth-rounder, who has seen his defensive snap share jump from 65% to 77% this year, has not played since Week 2.

Olamide Zaccheaus To Vie For Eagles’ Slot WR Role

Aside from running back Miles Sanders, who departed for Carolina in free agency, the Eagles return every starting skill player on offense. For an offense that finished last year second in the league in scoring and total yardage, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for improvement. Still the defending NFC Champions may have found a spot at which to improve, according to Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco of Inside the Birds.

The 2022 Eagles saw quarterback Jalen Hurts spoiled with three star pass catchers in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert. Quez Watkins contributed out of the slot with 33 catches for 354 yards, but that was a big step back from a sophomore campaign that saw him catch 43 balls for 647 yards.

That makes the offseason free agent addition of former Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus fairly noteworthy. While Watkins took a step back in 2022, Zaccheaus has done nothing but improve year after year. In a year that saw Atlanta struggle behind the arms of Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder, Zaccheaus delivered his best statistical season alongside a star-starved cast of rookie Drake London, Damiere Byrd, and KhaDarel Hodge.

With a 2022 line of 40 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns and the ability to progress each season, Zaccheaus provides an exciting potential upgrade for Philadelphia on offense. Watkins struggled at times last year, arguably playing a role in some of the team’s few losses. Zaccheaus provides more dependable hands, as well as a size and skill-set not possessed by the team’s top two wideouts.

The team’s fourth receiver last year, Zach Pascal, performed more as a blocker than a receiver, and he can continue in that role in 2023. If unseated by Zaccheaus, Watkins can rotate with Pascal as the fourth receiver, depending on the situation, or fill in for Brown or Smith if either need a breather or get injured.

So Hurts’s targets could look slightly different next year. Aside from new running backs D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny leading that room now, Hurts could be throwing to wide receivers Brown, Smith, and Zaccheaus and the tight end, Goedert, with Watkins and Pascal coming off the bench.

WR Rumors: Chiefs, Hill, Eagles, Atwell

The Chiefs chased JuJu Smith-Schuster in consecutive offseasons. They attempted to sign him in 2021, joining the Ravens in that regard. While Smith-Schuster re-signed with the Steelers last year, he said the Chiefs finished second. He landed in Kansas City this year on a one-year, $3.25MM contract. After a lost year in his Pittsburgh finale, Smith-Schuster is expected to play a more versatile role in Kansas City.

This is what I’ve been waiting to do. Everyone has to know everybody’s position. You have to know the outside, inside. You could play anywhere,” Smith-Schuster said, via NBC Sports’ Peter King, of his role in the Chiefs’ offense. “To be on so many personnel groups where we got so many great receivers who could play inside and outside, I love it. That’s what I’ve been wanting to do, to be used in so many different ways.”

The Steelers used Smith-Schuster in the slot on 78.8% of his snaps from 2020-21, per Pro Football Focus. While the veteran inside pass catcher should not be considered a pure Tyreek Hill replacement, he will be part of Kansas City’s collective post-Hill solution. Smith-Schuster joins Marquez Valdes-Scantling, second-round pick Skyy Moore and holdover Mecole Hardman in that group.

Here is more from the wide receiver scene across the league:

  • Regarding Hill, the accomplished wideout wanted to leave Kansas City, per King, who describes Hill as being unhappy leading up to the trade to Miami — a swap that led to the dominant speed threat securing a wideout-record contract. “It’s good for him and it’ll be good for us,” Andy Reid said. “It’s a win-win. I think it’ll help him in his career with the Dolphins. Financially it’s phenomenal for him and his family.” The Dolphins gave Hill a receiver-record $30MM-per-year deal, beating out the Jets in the quick-developing March sweepstakes. During a June podcast in which he expressed dissatisfaction with his 2021 role, Hill said he wanted to stay in Kansas City on a deal in the $25-26MM-per-year neighborhood. Agent Drew Rosenahus upped the asking price to that level after the Raiders’ Davante Adams extension. The Chiefs chose a trade that brought back five picks instead.
  • Jalen Reagor came up in trade rumors earlier this year, but the Eagles have seen the former first-round pick put together a good camp. The underperforming wideout looks to have secured a role as Philadelphia’s No. 4 receiver, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Reagor will likely be positioned to work ahead of offseason addition Zach Pascal, despite the latter’s Indianapolis history with Nick Sirianni. Under contract for two more years, Reagor — barring a trade — is set to play behind A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins. Reagor played 67% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps in each of his first two years.
  • The Rams‘ second Super Bowl-winning season did not feature much Tutu Atwell work. Despite the diminutive Louisville product being Los Angeles’ top draft pick last year, he played just 10 offensive snaps and saw an injury cut short his return-game duties eight games in. Although Sean McVay previously wanted Atwell to see notable preseason work, the sixth-year HC said (via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, on Twitter) the second-round pick has impressed the team in practice to the point he will not need to suit up for August game work. The Rams still may feature a depth chart at receiver that limits Atwell’s 2022 snaps, when Van Jefferson returns from injury early in the season. The Rams will have Jefferson, Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson in front of Atwell, and they have been endlessly connected to an Odell Beckham Jr. reunion this year.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/19/21

Given the recent surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the league, we expected to see more roster churning today than we typically would on a December Sunday. Here are today’s minor (and not so minor) moves. This page will, of course, be updated throughout the day:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: G Jon Feliciano
  • Promoted: OL Jacob Capra

Cleveland Browns

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/13/21

Today’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/10/20

Here is the latest barrage of Saturday minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: T Badara Traore

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Greg Mabin

Washington Football Team