Sammy Watkins

Chiefs To Talk With Sammy Watkins

The Chiefs want Sammy Watkins back in 2020, but not at his current rate. On Tuesday, Chiefs GM Brett Veach confirmed that he’ll sit down with Watkins’ agents this week to discuss a new deal that would fit the team’s budget. 

We’ll sit down and talk about the landscape of where we are and what would make sense to us and how we can make this work and we’ll get feedback from them in regards to what they’re looking for and hopefully we can bridge a gap and make something happen,’’ Veach said. (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher).

Watkins is slated to earn $14MM in 2020, a figure that doesn’t make much sense given his current place in the Chiefs’ offensive hierarchy. Still, Watkins’ presence alongside Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and other weapons gives opposing defenses extra cause for concern, and the veteran came through in some crucial moments for the Super Bowl champs last year.

Recently, Watkins stopped short of saying that he’d take a pay cut to stay, but he seems open to one. Frankly, it’s the only way that he’ll be able to remain in KC – his salary comes with a $21MM cap hit and there’s no conceivable way that the Chiefs can make that work as they get set to defend their throne.

Watkins has posted least 40 receptions, 500 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He’s also been clutch in the playoffs – he’s averaged 92.8 receiving yards across his five postseason contests with the Chiefs.

At one point, Watkins hinted at the possibility of taking a year off from football and returning in 2021. That no longer seems like the plan for him, but he suggested recently that he could skip a portion of OTAs to spend more time with his family.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins

The last we heard from Sammy Watkins, the wideout suggested that he could take a year off if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Well, following Kansas City’s victory, the wideout is walking back on his comments. Watkins told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt of SiriusXM that he intends to play in 2020 (Twitter link). The receiver said that he could miss part of OTAs “for his mental health and to spend time with his young family.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs want to retain Watkins, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). However, the team may have to overcome some financial hurdles to keep him around. The veteran is set to earn a hefty $14MM next season, and he’s attached to a $21MM cap hit. With Kansas City eyeing only around $16MM in cap space, it seems inevitable that the organization will approach Watkins about a pay cut. Fortunately for the Chiefs, it sounds like the receiver is receptive to the idea.

Watkins has been a reliable target for Patrick Mahomes during his two seasons in Kansas City. While he hasn’t come close to matching his 1,000-yard performance from 2015, he’s had at least 40 receptions, 500 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in both 2018 and 2019. Watkins has been especially productive in the postseason, where he’s averaged 92.8 receiving yards in his five games with Kansas City. That includes his five-catch, 98-yard performance against the 49ers on Sunday.

The Chiefs will also have a decision to make on impending free agent Chris Jones. The defensive lineman was named a Pro Bowler this past season after compiling nine sacks, and he had a standout performance during the Super Bowl. Pelissero notes that while the Chiefs would prefer to extend the 25-year-old, they’d also consider slapping him with the franchise tag.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins Won’t Rule Out Pay Cut

Sammy Watkins has found a home with the Chiefs, and he doesn’t want to leave anytime soon. Staying on board for 2020 could require a pay cut – something that the wide receiver won’t rule out.

I don’t want to say I will be (open to a pay cut). I don’t want to say I won’t,” he said. “I just think I’m a special player. I think I deserve all the things I deserve. If I’m at home and thinking about it, if I have to do it to pay [Patrick Mahomes], I maybe will. That’s a guy that we should pay, and he needs to get paid. But you never know, that’s a decision I’d have to go through.”

Watkins, of course, has bigger fish to fry this week. After the Super Bowl, both he and the Chiefs will have some decisions to make. The Chiefs have Watkins under contract for 2020 at a cap figure of $21MM with $13.75MM in base pay, but none of that money is guaranteed. It seems highly likely that the Chiefs will ask Watkins to take a pay cut, even as the timing of a Mahomes extension remains uncertain.

Watkins still poses a threat to opposing defenses, but his production doesn’t necessarily warrant that kind of money. In 2019, he had 52 catches for 673 yards – third on the team in both categories, behind Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

I don’t think numbers prove anything,” Watkins said in response to his stat line. “Numbers are just numbers to me. Numbers may mean a lot to the world, but I don’t think that proves what I do for this team. Me bringing the great energy every day, me being the person that I am…if you can value me off that, I think my value would be very high. I don’t think my value is all off scoring touchdowns or getting 1,000 yards receiving. I don’t think I’m valued like that. I’m valued off being around the guy, being positive, coming into work every day, being a professional. I think if you would judge me off that, you would give me the world.”

He’s also delivered in key moments, including the AFC Championship Game where he had seven catches for 114 yards, including the TD to ice the game.

If asked to take a pay cut, Watkins may or may not say yes. He also offered up a third possibility:

Or I might just take off a year after we win the Super Bowl, you never know.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Broncos, Chiefs, Johnson

The Bryce Callahan situation is moving closer toward the Broncos not seeing him on the field this season. After a report surfaced indicating the offseason signing now may miss the season, Vic Fangio said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter) seeing Callahan on the field this year has become a 50-50 proposition. Fangio said earlier this week he was hopeful his former Bears pupil would suit up in 2019. The Broncos signed both Callahan and Kareem Jackson to patch up their secondary, but the former continues to struggle to shake off the foot trouble that ended his 2018 season early. With contract-year standout Chris Harris still a trade candidate, though a player that may end up staying, the Broncos’ long-term cornerback situation is in as bleak of a place since before the franchise’s 2004 Champ Bailey acquisition.

Here is the latest from the West divisions, shifting first to another key Broncos signing:

  • Denver’s Ja’Wuan James investment has gone almost as poorly as its Callahan addition. James suffered an injury in the first quarter of the Broncos’ Week 1 game and has missed every snap since. However, the well-paid right tackle is expected to start this week, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. James is believed to be set to play in a part-time capacity, with a three-tackle rotation between he, Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson in the cards. Wilkinson has started the past six Broncos games at right tackle.
  • In addition to Patrick Mahomes‘ Week 8 absence, the Chiefs will be without Frank Clark. The team declared its top defensive end out with a neck injury. Chris Jones, Kendall Fuller and Eric Fisher will miss another game as well. Clark broke out for a dominant performance against Bolles in Kansas City’s Week 7 win, but the offseason acquisition will have to wait until at least Week 9 to build on that performance.
  • However, the Chiefs will have Sammy Watkins back. The oft-injured wide receiver suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5, but ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher notes he will play against the Packers. In Year 2 of a $16MM-AAV deal, Watkins has not caught a pass since Week 4.
  • David Johnson enters this week’s Cardinals game in the same place he did the past two games: as a game-time decision. Kliff Kingsbury said (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban, on Twitter) the former All-Pro back does not need practice to suit up for a game, but with Chase Edmonds playing well in relief, this shapes up as a true game-time call. Johnson suited up for Week 7 but spent most of his afternoon on the sideline. Both Christian Kirk and Jordan Hicks are game-day calls as well.

West Notes: Hill, Raiders, 49ers, Seahawks

It is possible the Chiefs will have neither of their top two wideouts going into their Week 6 home game against the Texans. Sammy Watkins is listed as doubtful to suit up, and Andy Reid called Tyreek Hill a game-time decision. Hill suffered an unusual clavicle injury early in Week 1 and has not played since. The veteran wideout, whose status for the Chiefs’ early-season games was in doubt for months because of more off-field trouble, returned to practice last week. Hill not playing would give the Chiefs’ auxiliary trio of Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle — each of whom having posted a 100-yard game this season — an interesting opportunity to work in bigger roles. Hill’s return not coming in Week 6 would almost certainly mean a Week 7 re-emergence.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • The NFC’s final unbeaten team now will start two backup tackles, with 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this week. Kyle Shanahan said he would be open to a trade but does not view one as making sense presently. “Things got to be available,” Shanahan said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “You got to be able to make smart decisions. If there were a smart decision out there, we’d definitely look into it. It doesn’t seem like many are available right now.” The obvious one would be a Trent Williams deal, but it does not sound like the 49ers are willing to meet the Redskins’ asking price. Shanahan coached Williams as Washington’s OC previously. Joe Staley is expected back in a few weeks.
  • A natural Jay Gruden landing spot would be with the Raiders, considering older brother Jon is in his second season as their coach. While expressing disappointment in the Redskins’ decision to fire his brother, Jon Gruden did not want to speculate on adding Jay to his staff, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair. Jay Gruden worked on his brother’s Buccaneers staffs from 2002-08, doing so as an offensive assistant. Jay was an Arena League quarterback for part of that span. The Raiders bringing Jay Gruden in would create an interesting “Cincinnati West” makeup, with former Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther working as the Raiders’ DC. Guenther and Jay Gruden worked under Marvin Lewis together. Jay Gruden said he does not intend to coach again in 2019 but will pursue other HC jobs in advance of the 2020 season.
  • Daryl Worley has started all five Raiders games this season, doing so as an outside cornerback. But with Nevin Lawson back on the roster after a suspension, and fourth-round rookie Isaiah Johnson set to resume practicing this week, the Raiders envision Worley transitioning into a hybrid role, Bair notes. Lamarcus Joyner already operates in that capacity in Oakland, but Jon Gruden sees Worley playing both safety and nickel in what the coach seems to view as a malleable secondary. Johnson, who is on IR, is likely to start practicing next week, Bair adds.
  • The Seahawks will likely be without two offensive line starters Sunday. Left tackle Duane Brown and right guard D.J. Fluker are doubtful to face the Browns. Seattle placed backup Ethan Pocic on IR on Friday, leaving the unit thin on its Cleveland trip. George Fant is expected to start at left tackle, and the Seahawks have interior linemen Joey Hunt and Jordan Roos on their roster as possible Fluker replacements. Hunt has three career starts, Roos zero.

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Watkins, Berry, Chiefs, Cowboys

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to play in today’s divisional playoff game against the Colts, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The wideout was listed as questionable with a foot injury.

The 25-year-old had only appeared in a single game since injuring his foot in Week 9, but he was able to practice throughout the week. When healthy, Watkins has managed to play a relatively big role in the Chiefs offense. In 10 games (nine starts) this season, the receiver had hauled in 40 receptions for 519 yards and three touchdowns.

With Watkins back in the mix, Chris Conley and Kelvin Benjamin will find themselves sliding down the depth chart.

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • While Watkins is set to play today, it sounds like one of his teammates will not. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Chiefs safety Eric Berry isn’t likely to play today against the Colts. The veteran has been dealing with injuries throughout the season, with a heel ailment being his latest issue. After playing in only one regular season game in 2017, the 30-year-old has been limited to only a pair of games in 2018, compiling 11 tackles. If there’s any silver lining, the Chiefs were reportedly preparing for Berry to miss today’s contest, as they adjusted their defensive packages to not include the veteran (via NFL.com’s Adam Maya).
  • The Cowboys are “cautiously optimistic” that both wideout Cole Beasley and tight end Blake Jarwin will be ready to play in tonight’s playoff matchup against the Rams, tweets Rapoport. Neither player practiced this week, and they’re both listed as questionable. However, Schefter tweets that the plan is for “both to work out pregame and both be active.” Beasley, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, had one of his best offensive seasons in 2017, compiling 65 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jarwin emerged late in the season, including a Week 17 contest where he had seven receptions for 119 yards and three scores.
  • We heard last night that Colts receiver Ryan Grant and defensive end Tyquan Lewis will not suit up for today’s matchup against the Chiefs.

Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins To Miss Time

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a foot injury, according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). That would explain why the Chiefs signed Kelvin Benjamin to a prorated one-year deal earlier this week. 

The Chiefs signed Watkins to a whopping three-year, $48MM deal this offseason with $30MM fully guaranteed at signing. In typical fashion, Watkins has provided glimpses of brilliance and ineffectiveness due to injury. At his best, Watkins is an absolute game-changer, as evidenced by his eight catches for 107 receiving yards and two scores against the Broncos in late October.

This, however, is the other side of the coin. Watkins will have to rest up the foot that has plagued him since 2015 and the Chiefs will hope that he’s ready to go in time for the playoffs.

The Chiefs, of course, still have plenty of firepower even without Watkins or embattled running back Kareem Hunt on the field. Patrick Mahomes has been sensation, Tyreek Hill is too fast for anyone to guard consistently, and Travis Kelce has been playing out of his mind lately. Benjamin may not be a proper one-for-one substitute for Watkins, but there’s upside there as well, and he’ll be motivated to showcase his skills before free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Thomas, Chiefs, Rams

More noise is coming out of the Earl Thomas trade front. The Seahawks‘ status as a rebuilding team — one that’s lost core defenders Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor — should make them come back to the Cowboys about the Thomas trade the teams discussed on draft weekend, Brian Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website said during an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

The Cowboys have to look at their situation at safety and figure out is this going to be good enough? Are we able to compete for a division? To get in the playoffs? Could Earl Thomas be a guy, could he be a difference-maker?” Broaddus said, (via the Dallas Morning News). “I feel like that the Earl Thomas situation still is in play. It’s just a matter of where Seattle is going to be. I don’t believe Earl Thomas is going to sit out games for Seattle. I really, really don’t. You’re talking about a guy that makes over $10 million. Players just don’t leave those checks on the field just for principle, for that reason. I think that Seattle is going to have to figure out something. The Cowboys are going to have to figure out something. And maybe they do work something out there.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Seahawks-Cowboys connection potentially resurfacing regarding an employer change for the All-Pro safety. Thomas skipped minicamp and has one year left on his deal, but the Cowboys are thin at safety to the point it’s logical the sides will revisit these talks.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions as we near training camps opening.

  • Kendall Fuller will not only be expected to be the Chiefs‘ slot cornerback after coming to Kansas City via offseason trade; he’ll be counted on now to be their No. 1 corner, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com writes. This would mean a starting role as an outside cover man and shifts into the slot on passing downs. The 5-foot-11 Fuller would have big shoes to fill in replacing historically productive ball hawk Marcus Peters. The Chiefs, though, do not have an obvious Peters replacement lined up. They signed David Amerson, but that amounts to more of a flier-type deal. This position may be K.C.’s biggest concern heading into the season.
  • The Chiefs also authorized a surprising amount of money ($16MM AAV) for Sammy Watkins, who, on the surface, would figure to be the team’s nominal No. 2 wide receiver behind Tyreek Hill. In an offense that funnels through All-Pro Travis Kelce and now has reigning rushing champ Kareem Hunt, Watkins could be deemed as a superfluous cog on a team that needed much more help on defense. However, Teicher notes the Chiefs want Watkins to be more than a No. 2 wideout and writes that the team’s offense will function best if Kelce, Hill and Watkins post similar receiving numbers. That has not been the case in K.C. for years, with the franchise largely eschewing the complementary receiver spots. Watkins represented a major deviation from that philosophy.
  • Heading into camp, the Rams are planning to use third-year UDFA Cory Littleton as Alec Ogletree‘s replacement, Lindsay Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Littleton started four games and made 31 tackles last season. Rams LBs coach Joe Barry serves as an important advocate for Littleton, indicating he wanted the undrafted ‘backer in Washington when he was a Redskins assistant two years ago. Now, Littleton will be tasked with a key second-level job on a star-studded defense. “When we were in Washington we loved him,” Barry said, via Thiry. “I was on the table the entire third day of the draft to draft him.”

Extra Points: Butler, Shead, Rams, Chiefs

It’s been a wild ride for the Seahawks defense the past week. After the team traded Michael Bennett to the Eagles and released Richard Sherman, it also decided to release cornerback DeShawn Shead.

This was noteworthy because the Seahawks told the player it would release him to allow him to become an unrestricted free agent despite the NFL saying his contract should toll for 2018.

Earlier today, Shead signed with the Lions but reportedly wanted a return to the Seahawks, the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta tweets. After Seattle honored its statement to make the cornerback a free agent, Shead wanted to give Seattle every chance to keep him, but the organization ultimately wouldn’t match the offer he received from the Lions.

Seattle now enters free agency without three of its top veterans and could be seeing the end of the Earl Thomas era, who has threatened to hold out if he doesn’t receive a new deal. The Seahawks could deal him this offseason and are reportedly looking for a first-round pick in return.

Needless to say, the Seahawks once-stingy defensive unit will look plenty different in 2018.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Rams general manager Les Snead said on Wednesday the team traded linebacker Alec Ogletree to accommodate the ensuing move for cornerback Aqib Talib, Alden Gonzalez tweets. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips prefers cornerbacks to linebackers in his scheme, and a big move had to be made to bring in the former Broncos corner, who will count $11 MM toward the cap.
  • Snead also said he sees ways the Rams can address run defense and the pass rush in free agency, Gonzalez tweets. Though he is weighing what will be available to fill those holes with rookies, he doesn’t want to just wait until the draft to fill obvious needs. The team received some insurance for its pass rush on Wednesday when it re-signed veteran linebacker Connor Barwin.
  • New Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler said he was worried his Super Bowl benching would hurt his value on the open market, USA Today’s Lindsay Jones tweets. Butler notoriously didn’t see the field against the Eagles in February when the Patriots allowed Nick Foles to shred their secondary. The 2015 Pro Bowl selection reached a deal with the Titans on Wednesday worth up to $61 MM over five years, with $30 MM of that being guaranteed.
  • Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said cornerback Marcus Peters‘ trade to the Rams had nothing to do with national anthem protests, Pro Football Talk passes along“This was a football decision. … This wasn’t just one game, wasn’t a month, this was three years of body of work, and we look for consistency. We felt that this was in the best interest of the team,” Veach said. 
  • Veach also touched on the Chiefs move for Sammy Watkins, saying the team pounced on the receiver in the first minute of free agency, the NFL Network’s James Palmer tweets. Veach said that if Watkins received a call before theirs, the other team would’ve had to call in 30 seconds before they did. The team was motivated to move on Watkins to add him to Tyreek Hill, giving strong-armed quarterback Patrick Mahomes a pair of dynamic, stretch-the-field receivers.