After another sub-par season plagued by injury, and rarely showing his face during the biggest game of the year, it’s time for the Chiefs to find a replacement receiver and let Watkins go.
Chiefs WR2 Sammy Watkins is set to become a free agent in March, and although he had a truly spectacular postseason run last season on the way to winning Super Bowl LIV, it has been his inability to stay healthy throughout the entirety of his career that makes re-signing him a liability the Chiefs do not need.
When Watkins first came to Kansas City, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not the frequently-injured wide receiver was worth the $16 million/year that the Chiefs were giving him to don the #14 jersey in red-and-yellow, and after three seasons, two trips to the Super Bowl, and a restructured deal it’s easy to see that he is no longer viable for KC’s offense.
Although the former fourth-overall pick re-signed for less money after helping Kansas City win their first Super Bowl in 50 years, it came in the form of an incentive-heavy one-year deal worth $9 million (with $7 million extra in incentives) but even after lowering his cost he did not play up to his newly-designated worth throughout the COVID-afflicted season…especially in Super Bowl LV.
This season Watkins boasted some of the worst numbers of his career, finishing the season with only 38 catches for a total of 434 yards–both close seconds to his worst season (2016) where he only played 8 games–and a measly two TDs.
Watkins was the first WR picked in the 2014 NFL draft, a risky move by a Buffalo Bills team relying on then-starting QB Kyle Orton under center at the ripe age of 32 that season, and in doing so the bar was set very high for the former Clemson receiver.
Watkins was drafted before the likes of Khalil Mack, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, OBJ, and Aaron Donald–all of whom have had outstanding careers so far and (for the most part) have remained healthy for the majority of their time in the NFL.
Before contemplating the idea of keeping Watkins–even on a cheap deal–it’s important to actually conceptualize just how dominant he was last postseason: 14 catches for 288 yards and a game-sealing TD against Tennessee in the AFC Championship game, but that postseason sadly does not determine where he stands with the Chiefs.
Just based off the numbers it’s easy to see that Watkins was a different type of force for the Chiefs last season but if you watched the playoff games you could tell that he was in a league of his own, making defenders slip and getting past the secondary with ease–all those things are possible when he’s actually healthy and on the field.
Sadly, in his seven-year career, he has only had one season where he played in all 16 games: his rookie year in Buffalo. Since then he has missed 26% of the games his team has played, including two of Kansas City’s playoffs games this past postseason after injuring his calf late in the season.
If Watkins had made his presence known when he returned for the lopsided Super Bowl loss against “Tompa” Bay then maybe there would be a different conversation that Brett Veach, Coach Reid, and the rest of the Chiefs front office need to have with #14. But in the end, he only had one catch for 13 yards and only played 31% of the offensive snaps.
Overall, Watkins has been a key player for the Chiefs when he’s on the field, he takes an extra defender or two away from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and he tends to make big catches when Kansas City needs him to, sadly this all fails in comparison to the potential that is lost when he’s constantly on the sideline in pain.
If the Chiefs let Watkins walk they will likely be looking to fill his position with a similarly-built WR: one that’s tall enough to get the 50/50 throws, has good enough hands that defenses will refuse to take their eyes off him, and can play in at least 90% of the games being played.
As a Kansas City Chief, Sammy Watkins currently has 154 receptions on 235 targets (65.5% catch rate) and 2,169 total yards with 9 TDs, if the Chiefs are smart this offseason then these stats will stay to become his career stats with KC.
While I applaud the idea of separating from Watkins, I also speak for all Chiefs fans when I say “Thank You Sammy Watkins for helping Kansas City reach the promised land.”