As we told you a couple weeks back, the Buffalo Bills have until May 2 to pick up the fifth-year option of wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Because of the slot where he was drafted (fourth overall in 2014), his 2018 salary would be equivalent the transition tender (the average of the 10 highest wide receiver salaries). That translates to Watkins being owed $13.258 million for 2018.
With the flashes of brilliance Watkins has displayed during his tenure with the BIlls, along with the club’s current lack of depth — and skill — at the position, it would seem that picking up the option for the soon-to-be 24-year-old would be an easy decision to make, right? Wrong. The Bills made it known publicly a few weeks ago that it was beginning to discuss Wakins’ contract situation when head coach Sean McDermott revealed so, have reportedly yet to reach a decision. WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio says that sources have informed him that Buffalo will continue to hold discussions surrounding Watkins over the next couple of weeks and in the meantime, a decision has yet to be reached because the option is guaranteed against injury. So, if Watkins were unable to pass a physical when the snew league year begins in March of 2018, his money owed would become fully guaranteed.
In his three seasons, Watkins has played in all 16 games just one season. Injury caused him to missed three games during his sophomore campaign and it kept him out of half of the games last season, too. Not to mention he also missed time in college with Clemson. Watkins, who had foot surgery in January to correct what ailed him in 2016, is expected back for training camp. That was the second such surgery the wide receiver has had; the first one was performed following the 2015 season.
Given his injury history, it’s not hard to believe that the Bills would have reservations about shelling out top ten wide receiver money for Wakins. But as Capaccio points out, should Waktins finish the 2017 season healthy, Buffalo could elect to withdraw his 2018 option and let his contract expire if for instance they were unsatisfied with his performance.
Although Buffalo is up against the clock with roughly only two weeks remaining by which they have to make a decision on Watkins 2018 status with the club, it’s not surprising at all to see how long the deliberations have played out. What would be a surprise is if the Bills elect not to extend far and away the top receiving threat currently on its roster.
Picking up his option increases the likelihood that the two parties could strike a long term deal, in which the Bills could potentially end up lowering Watkins potential 2018 cap hit of about $13 million. It would be interesting to see if the Bills could in fact accomplish that. With the hype surrounding Watkins as he entered the league along with who the Bills have lined up behind him, it would not at all be surprising to hear that he wants to paid big money. We’ll see soon what the team comes away from this year’s draft, but as things stand now, Watkins would seemingly have most of the leverage in negotiations of a long-term contract.