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Sammy Watkins Free Agency Outlook 2021: Where will he play in 2021?

Approaching free agency after the season ends, Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins could find himself on his fourth NFL team in eight seasons in 2021.

Sammy Watkins Free Agency Outlook 2021: Where will he play in 2021?
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 19: Sammy Watkins #14 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs onto the field during player introductions prior to the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Titans 35-24. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

While the Kansas City Chiefs are well on their way to competing for back-to-back Super Bowl victories, they won’t be spared from the upcoming free agency period. Although they did secure several players before the season, wide receiver Sammy Watkins will hit free agency once the 2021 season starts in March. The question becomes — will Watkins be back in Kansas City or will the former 2014 NFL Draft pick land elsewhere?

When on the field, Sammy Watkins has been productive

When you look back on the 2014 NFL Draft class, you see it was loaded with talent across the board. In that class, you find Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson. However, none of those players went as high in the draft as Sammy Watkins. He led the class as the first WR off the board at the fourth-overall pick.

Though when you look back on career stats, Watkins is behind all the aforementioned receivers in basically every category. It’s not to say Watkins has struggled. It’s that the class is that good.

In his 86 games, Watkins has compiled 321 receptions on 546 targets for 4,665 yards and 33 touchdowns. He did this while playing his first three years with the Buffalo Bills, a one year stop for the Los Angeles Rams, and now the Chiefs. 

Watkins restructured his deal to clear space prior to 2020

Watkins signed a three-year, $48 million contract with Kansas City back in 2018. However, due to cap issues and the willingness to help the team, he restructured his deal heading into 2020. Watkins bet on himself and signed an incentive-laden deal that could have netted up to $16 million if he hit specific figures. 

Unfortunately for Sammy Watkins, 2020 was just an okay season rather than the explosive one he hoped for when he inked his new deal. 

He ended the regular season with 37 receptions on 55 targets for 421 yards and two touchdowns. 

Injuries have plagued Sammy Watkins’ career as he enters the 2021 free agency pool

Injuries. The elephant in the room when you look back on Sammy Watkins time in all three stops. In his seven seasons in the NFL, Watkins has played in all 16 games just once, his rookie season. Out of a possible 112 games, Watkins has played in just 86. That’s more than a season and a half worth of games left unavailable. This includes playing in eight games in his final season in Buffalo (2016) and 10 games in two of his three seasons in Kansas City (2018 and 2020).

It makes it difficult to sink more money into a player you don’t know if they will be available for more than 75% of their games. Yes, Sammy Watkins did them a favor in restructuring his deal to allow the Chiefs to make some mega-signings happen. 

They made Patrick Mahomes the highest-paid player in North American sports history. In addition, they locked up Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Fisher, and Anthony Hitchens. 

According to Over The Cap’s website, the Chiefs are currently projected to be $13.627 million over the salary cap because of these moves. 

Is bringing back an oft-injured 27-year-old the smartest business decision when you have the talent on offense like the Chiefs? 

Where could Sammy Watkins sign during the 2021 free agency period?

With several marquee free agent WRs on the market, Watkins could struggle to land a large contract.

The Chiefs could attempt to re-sign Watkins to a small veteran deal

If they can pull off back-to-back Super Bowls, would Sammy Watkins take the hometown discount to be apart of this potential dynasty? Mahomes in on his way to be the greatest ever to play QB. They have Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and even Mecole Hardman as pass catchers. The pressure is off Watkins in Kansas City rather than trying to jumpstart his career again.

The question is, can both sides come to an agreement. Watkins restructured once, and this could be the last big contract he signs as a professional. At some point, you have to think of yourself and get all the money you can before it is all said and done. 

The Chicago Bears could look to add Sammy Watkins for 2021

It’s a team who doesn’t get brought up much in free agency news, but they have a desperate need for a WR in 2021. Allen Robinson will be a free agent, and everything has pointed to him leaving since the preseason. When they chose to give Tarik Cohen a new deal and not Robinson this sealed it for me.

Darnell Mooney looks like a legit WR2 for an NFL offense. But after him, who else? Anthony Miller is coming into his contract year, but he was a massive disappointment in 2020, failing to cross 500 yards. 

We don’t know who the QB is going to be or the head coach for that matter. Whoever it will be, they’re going to need receivers. The Bears are floating right around the salary cap bubble, so it’s hard to see them going expensive. Watkins could fit the bill for Chicago.

New England could take a shot at acquiring Sammy Watkins in free agency

Anytime you hear about a receiver in the 2021 free agency period, expect the New England Patriots to be in the conversation. 

Few teams in the NFL lack the talent at receiver as the Patriots. Julian Edelman is not getting any younger (34) or healthier. The Patriots’ 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry only caught 33 passes. And Jakobi Meyers, a UDFA from NC State, led the team with 59 receptions for 729 yards and no touchdowns.

The Buffalo Bills have taken over the AFC East, and now it is up to the Patriots to try to get back into the conversation. That’s if they can pass the Miami Dolphins, who are in a better spot as a franchise right now.

Would the Detroit Lions come calling for Sammy Watkins in 2021?

If you want to talk about a team with receiver issues that needs addressing, the Detroit Lions are at the top. Kenny Golladay barely played this season. Worst of all, both he and Marvin Jones are free agents in 2021. The only receiver left is 2020 rookie Quintez Cephus from Wisconsin, but he is far from proven. 

The Lions are about to start a full rebuild. A new head coach is coming in, and there is even a shot Matthew Stafford is on a new team as weird as that could be. Going “older” isn’t the best option at times, but he helps fill a gaping void and need for Detroit at the right price.

Want more NFL news and analysis?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis concerning the 2020 season and beyond.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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