Sammy Watkins

Bills Decline WR Sammy Watkins’ Option

The Bills are declining Sammy Watkins‘ fifth-year option, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. The move was expected, but we did not have confirmation of it until today. Sammy Watkins (vertical)

[RELATED: PFR’s Fifth-Year Option Decision Tracker]

Watkins has been great when on the field, but injuries have limited him to just 37 of 48 possible regular season games since entering the league. In 2016, he only appeared in eight contests.

Watkins is currently recovering from foot surgery and that was reportedly a major factor in Buffalo’s decision. If they exercised Watkins’ option and he suffered an injury, they would be saddled with him at a $13.26MM salary for 2018. Conversely, if he’s healthy and productive in 2017, they can retain him for another season via the franchise tag, which would cost an estimated $16MM.

In his three seasons, Watkins has averaged 66 catches, 1,064 yards, and seven touchdowns per 16 games. Unfortunately for Watkins and the Bills, he hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since his rookie season in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Bills’ Front Office Shakeup

The Bills deciding to trade out of their No. 10 slot, when the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-rounder to headline a package that netted them Patrick Mahomes, indicated Doug Whaley was not going to be around much longer, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Buffalo moving down 17 spots — a move the Bills were believed to be pushing for prior to the draft — signaled a long-term plan more than one designed to help an embattled GM’s team win now. (However, Chiefs GM John Dorsey told B.J. Kissel of KCChiefs.com — Twitter link — Whaley was involved in talks that originated early this week.)

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com notes the Bills’ chaotic front office situation goes back to 2014, when Terry and Kim Pegula took over and were surprised when Doug Marrone exercised an opt-out option that garnered him $4MM and left the Bills without a coach despite having completed a rare over-.500 season in 2014. The current Jaguars HC’s 9-7 campaign, aided the Patriots resting starters in Week 17 of that season, represents the most the Bills wins since 2004.

La Canfora notes Whaley has not gotten along especially well with any of his coaches, describing less-than-ideal relationships with both Marrone and Rex Ryan, and the one with Sean McDermott did not take off. Bill Polian declined to join the Bills in January of 2015, and La Canfora notes that decision kept Whaley in charge and helped lead to Marrone bolting on his contract.

Now running the show in Buffalo, McDermott was not happy the Patriots plucked Stephon Gilmore in free agency, La Canfora writes. The RFA decisions on Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee did not help, either. The CBS-based reporter notes some of Pegula’s confidants advised him to fire Whaley years ago. The Bills signed Whaley to an extension last year, however.

A source categorized the Bills’ draft room this weekend as “one of the weirdest three days,” per Breer, due to the fact a leadership component wasn’t entirely present. McDermott, though, was the one who was providing the final say, Breer reports. The first-year HC was given autonomy to remove prospects from the draft board as well. Pegula said today Whaley put together the draft and the organization decided to fire him after the three-day event, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com relays.

Scouts were upset with Ryan’s program last year, Breer notes, adding that Bills coaches felt some of Whaley’s draft decisions — be it the trade-up for Sammy Watkins or selection of injury-risk Shaq Lawson — didn’t fit the schemes they were using. As for Watkins, it’s possible the Bills made his injury situation worse. Breer reports that the wideout’s foot injury was too severe for him to complete walkthroughs, but no one put a stop to his comeback attempt, and the pain worsened as he pushed through it to lead to a two-month shutdown. Watkins returned for the final six games but only cleared 80 receiving yards twice, albeit on a run-centric team. Already rumored to be set to decline Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills are probably more likely to go in that direction now that Whaley is gone, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets.

Further complicating things with McDermott: Anthony Lynn was Whaley’s first HC choice, according to Breer, and ownership went with the former Panthers DC — with whom Whaley did not have much of a relationship — while letting Lynn proceed to the Chargers’ job. Tyrod Taylor‘s return on an adjusted deal also went against Whaley’s wishes and was more in line with new OC Rick Dennison‘s. The latter was the Broncos’ OC when the team pursued Taylor in 2015.

As far as the selection of the next GM, the Pegulas might not lean on team president Russ Brandon too much, with Terry Pegula saying today the owners would ask Brandon questions if they believed they need to (Twitter link via Breer). Former Eagles president and Browns CEO Joe Banner understandably expects the new GM to be someone with close ties to McDermott, the longtime exec told Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane could well become a candidate.

Bills Unlikely To Exercise Sammy Watkins’ Fifth-Year Option

The Bills have a decision to make on wide receiver Sammy Watkins‘ fifth-year option by May 3, and odds are they won’t exercise it, reports Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News (Twitter link).

Sammy Watkins (Vertical)

Watkins has been a stellar performer since going fourth overall in the 2014 draft, but injuries have limited the ex-Clemson star to just 37 of 48 regular-season games, including only eight in 2016. Watkins is currently recovering from foot surgery, which is a key reason why the Bills probably won’t pick up his option, per Carucci. Fifth-year options are guaranteed for injury only, so the Bills don’t want to potentially tie themselves to Watkins for $13.26MM in 2018 if they’re unsure of his health. In the event he’s healthy next offseason, the Bills would have the option of placing the franchise tag on an unsigned Watkins for roughly $16MM.

For at least next season, Watkins will team with the club’s newly minted second-round pick, Zay Jones, to comprise the Bills’ top two receivers. Thus far in his career, the 23-year-old Watkins has averaged 66 catches, 1,064 yards and seven touchdowns per 16 games. Unfortunately for Watkins and the Bills, he hasn’t played a 16-game slate since his rookie season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Debating Watkins’ Fifth-Year Option

The Bills only have several weeks to decide whether they’ll pick up Sammy Watkins fifth-year option, and Sal Capaccio of WGR550.com reports that the organization is still debating whether they’ll make the move. According to the writer, the team is especially wary of the fact that the option is guaranteed against injury.

Sammy Watkins (Vertical)The option would cost the Bills around $13MM against the cap for the 2018 season, although Capaccio notes that the team could pick up the option and subsequently negotiate a lower value via a long-term contract. Watkins has participated in rehab with the team over the past couple of weeks after undergoing foot surgery, and both the front office and head coach Sean McDermott are set to meet with the medical staff to get an update on the wideout’s progress.

Picking up the option seems likely, and the Bills would still have some flexibility. The option wouldn’t be guaranteed (except for injury) until the 2018 offseason, so if Watkins struggles next season, they team isn’t obligated to pay him that money. If the team decides to not pick up the fifth-year option, they could still retain the receiver via the franchise tag. Capaccio estimates that the franchise tag for wideouts will be around $16.5MM next offseason.

Watkins struggled through a foot injury in 2016, and the wideout ended up missing half the season. He finished the campaign with only 28 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. The former first-rounder also missed three games during the 2015 season, but he still managed to haul in 60 receptions for 1,047 yards and nine scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Chargers, 49ers, Bills, Bucs

The NFL is “besides itself” over the Chargers’ choice to exit San Diego in favor of Los Angeles last week, a league source told Adam Schefter of ESPN. “There are a ton of owners very upset that [the Chargers] moved,” said another source, who interestingly added the league hopes Chargers owner Dean Spanos realizes he “bungled” the situation and moves the team back to San Diego. Unsurprisingly, the chances of that happening are rather slim, Schefter notes.

More from LA and several other NFL cities:

  • It looks as though the 49ers are “making a huge offer” to reel in Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator, tweets Drew Copley of CBS47. That jibes with Sporting News’ Alex Marvez report from earlier Friday that there’s “buzz” regarding a Kyle Shanahan-Bradley ticket in San Francisco and runs contrary to the notion that Bradley would’ve only gone to the Niners had they hired Tom Cable as their head coach.
  • The Bills announced Friday that wide receiver Sammy Watkins underwent foot surgery for the second time and will be unavailable until training camp. Watkins’ foot was an issue throughout the 2016 campaign, as the three-year veteran sat out eight games and played injured during the other eight en route to a 28-catch, 430-yard, two-touchdown showing. Like Watkins, Bills pass rusher Shaq Lawson also had surgery – on his knee. Lawson’s procedure was minor and won’t keep him from participating in offseason activites. The 2016 first-round pick from Clemson missed six games as a rookie after undergoing shoulder surgery and didn’t make a significant impact during his initial 10 NFL contests (13 tackles, two sacks).
  • With $65MM-plus in cap space, the Buccaneers will prioritize re-signing their own soon-to-be free agents before the market opens, general manager Jason Licht revealed Friday (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). “We have a track record of rewarding our players that produce, keeping key players that thrive in the system and we have the salary cap flexibility to make it happen,” said Licht. In light of Licht’s statement, Stroud expects the Bucs to make an effort to retain defensive end William Gholston and Jacquies Smith, wide receiver Russell Shepard and cornerback Josh Robinson.
  • Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had surgery to repair “loose bodies” in his left elbow, he informed John Keim of ESPN.com. Kerrigan, who injured his elbow Dec. 19, will need six to eight weeks to recover. The 28-year-old is coming off his second Pro Bowl season, in which he piled up 11 sacks. Kerrigan hasn’t finished with fewer than 7.5 sacks in any of his six seasons.
  • The Chargers will hire Alfredo Roberts as their running backs coach, per Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). He’ll replace Ollie Wilson, who had been with the Chargers for 14 years. Roberts and new Bolts head coach Anthony Lynn will now work together for a third time – the two were previously on the same staffs in Cleveland and Jacksonville.

Bills Rumors: Woods, Whaley, Ryan, Watkins

While speaking to reporters, Bills wide receiver Robert Woods heavily indicated that he will be testing the open market this spring, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets. Woods has been a solid WR2 for Buffalo and he has had some monster games in instances where Sammy Watkins was unable to go or was playing at half strength. Coming off of a career-high 67.1% catch percentage, Woods should draw plenty of attention in March. It also helps that the USC product does not turn 25 until April.

Here’s more out of Buffalo:

  • During Monday’s disastrous press conference, Bills GM Doug Whaley says he is “open to anything” regarding the team’s coaching search, including giving up control of the 53-man roster, Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News tweets. That contradicts reports from the last week which have indicated that Whaley is not interested in hiring any coach who would want to have authority over roster construction. Whaley also said that he was “not privy to the conversation” in which Rex Ryan‘s fate was decided. If Whaley is to be believed, that means he was not involved in dismissing the last coach, yet he is in charge of hiring the next coach. All in all, the presser from yesterday left many questioning the power structure and chain of command in Buffalo.
  • Watkins will have another foot surgery this week, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News tweets. We don’t have much in the way of details, but there is no indication that the surgery will cost Watkins time in 2017.
  • Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander says his agent has had preliminary discussions with the Bills about a new deal, Sal Capaccio of MSG tweets. Alexander joined Buffalo last year on a one-year deal worth $885K with just $75K guaranteed. Initially viewed as a special teams signing, Alexander had a career year in 2016, totaling 64 tackles and 12.5 sacks.

Bills Notes: Henderson, Watkins, Lewis

Bills head coach Rex Ryan says he told offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson that while the club supports him, every player must abide with the rules of the NFL, tweets Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Henderson, of course, was handed a 10-game suspension earlier this week following a second positive test for marijuana. Ryan, though, calls Henderson a “unique circumstance” given that he may have been using marijuana to treat his Crohn’s disease. Given Ryan’s supportive words and Henderson’s cheap salary for 2017, it’s a good bet that he’ll return to the team next year despite his latest setback.

Here’s more from Buffalo:

  • Ryan also told the media that wide receiver Dezmin Lewis, activated from the practice squad this week, “has to poop or get off the pot,” (Twitter link via Rodak). Lewis, a seventh round pick in 2015, has shown flashes of ability but has yet to truly break out. Reading between the lines, Rodak feels that Buffalo is giving him one last shot to get it all together. If he doesn’t, he could be dropped from the Bills’ 53-man roster and left without an invitation to join their practice squad.
  • Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins did not practice today because of his ailing foot, as Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets. Watkins, who returned on Sunday to post three receptions for 80 yards, was expected to be limited during the workout, but him not practicing at all could be an indication that his status for this weekend is in doubt.
  • Earlier today, the Bills signed offensive lineman Isame Faciame to their practice squad.

Bills Activate Sammy Watkins

He’s back. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that the Bills have activated wideout Sammy Watkins from the injured reserve. ESPN’s Mike Rodak reports that Watkins is expected to play Sunday against the Jaguars. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets that the team has also released tight end Gerald Christian and placed safety Robert Blanton on the injured reserve. Finally, the Bills have also signed kickoff specialist Jordan Gay.

Sammy Watkins (Vertical)Watkins hasn’t played since Week 2 as he recovered from a lingering foot ailment, and he was placed on the injured reserve in late September. The wideout has been dealing with the foot injury since last May, when he had a screw inserted following a minor fracture. The 23-year-old struggled in his two games this season, hauling in only six catches for 63 yards. Of course, there’s no denying the talent of the former first-rounder, as Watkins finished the 2015 season with 60 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in only 13 games.

The Bills could certainly use some help at receiver, especially with Robert Woods listed as doubtful for this weekend’s game. The Bills rank dead last in receiving yards this season, and while that could partly be attributed to quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the team’s lack of big-play wideouts have certainly limited the offense’s potential.

The team will be welcoming back an offensive weapon, but they’ll be losing some depth on defense. Blanton has played in 10 games this season (two starts), compiling 35 tackles. The 27-year-old injured his foot during last week’s game against the Bengals. Blanton will join fellow Bills safeties Colt Anderson and Aaron Williams on the injured reserve.

Christian, the Mr.Irrelevent of the 2015 draft, made two appearances for the Bills this season. The team signed the 25-year-old to their practice squad during the offseason, and he was promoted to the active roster in early October. Christian has already been released by the Bills once this season, and he subsequently landed on the team’s practice squad. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that the tight end will probably end up sticking with the organization.

Gay served as the Bills kickoff specialist during the 2014 and 2015 season, and he was let go by the team in late September. Dan Carpenter will presumably continue with field goal and extra point opportunities, with Gay strictly contributing during kickoffs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Packers, Bills, Van Noy, Lions

Unless Packers president Mark Murphy is willing to risk losing well-regarded director of player personnel Eliot Wolf, he’ll probably have to turn the football operations over to the 34-year-old in the offseason and relegate general manager Ted Thompson to an advisory role, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Packers have been highly successful since hiring Thompson in 2005, having gone 112-73-1 with eight playoff appearances, but they’re currently 4-6 and Silverstein argues that Thompson’s free agency-avoiding approach has grown stale. Thompson, who has two years left on his contract, is also three decades older than the up-and-coming Wolf. Thus, if the Packers are sold on Wolf, promoting him soon would make sense.

More from around the NFL, which is capping off a quality slate of Thanksgiving games:

  • Bills No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins hasn’t seen the field since Week 2 on account of a foot injury, but it appears he’ll return Sunday against Jacksonville. “As long as there’s not another setback or anything like that, I feel pretty good about him playing,” head coach Rex Ryan said Thursday (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). Watkins, whom the Bills designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday, will only be available on a limited basis if he does play Sunday. Nevertheless, his presence will be a welcome one for a wideout-needy Buffalo team that likely won’t have Robert Woods in its lineup because of a knee ailment.
  • On the heels of a 25-sack college career at BYU, the Lions selected linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round of the 2014 draft. Van Noy amassed just one sack in 30 games with the Lions, though, and they traded him to the Patriots last month for a late-round pick. In his Pats debut last week, Van Noy picked up 29 snaps and a sack in a win over the 49ers, and he admitted Thursday that his Detroit tenure was frustrating because the club seldom used him as a pass rusher. “Oh yeah, who wouldn’t be when you did that your whole college career and then all of a sudden you’re not allowed to, or they don’t want you to,” he told Ryan Hannable of WEEI.
  • There were conflicting reports on Thursday afternoon regarding the Redskins’ willingness to place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins again in the offseason. That was before Cousins completed 41 of 53 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-26 loss to Dallas. Cousins is amid a late-season tear for the second straight year.
  • Speaking of the Cowboys, who are an NFL-best 10-1, second-round linebacker Jaylon Smith won’t make his debut this season.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins Returns To Practice

Sammy Watkins will return to practice for the Bills today, GM Doug Whaley told WGR 550. The Bills have until Dec. 14 – 21 days from today – to activate him to their 53-man roster. Sammy Watkins (vertical)

Watkins has been on injured reserve since Sept. 30 when his foot injury became too much to play through. To date, Watkins has appeared in only two games this season. Now, he is eligible to play in Sunday’s game against the Jaguars, but it’s not immediately clear whether that is a real option. After practice today, we could get a clearer idea of Watkins’ timetable.

The Bills would certainly like to get Watkins on the field this weekend, particularly given Robert Woodsknee sprain. Without Woods and Watkins, Buffalo is looking at a scenario where the recently un-retired Percy Harvin is arguably the No. 1 pass catching option along with Marquise Goodwin, Justin Hunter, Walter Powell, and Brandon Tate.

Watkins has shelved with six receptions for 63 yards in his two games. In his 13-game season last year, Watkins hauled in 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.