Watkins signed a three-year, $48 million contract with the Chiefs on Wednesday, receiving a $21 million signing bonus and $30 million in total guarantees, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.
Dealt to the Rams during training camp last year, Watkins operated as a low-volume deep threat in Los Angeles, catching 39 of 70 targets for 593 yards (15.3 yards per reception, 8.5 yards per target) and eight touchdowns in 15 games. His contract with the Chiefs suggests the team expects him to take on a larger workload, though it will be difficult to match his volume from Buffalo (7.4 targets per game) in an offense that also has to feed Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Last season was a clear disappointment from a statistical standpoint, but Watkins did enjoy a mostly healthy campaign for the first time since his rookie year of 2014, and his downfield presence made things easier for fellow Rams wideouts Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Watkins celebrates his 25th birthday in June and still has time to grow alongside second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.
Watkins intends to sign with the Chiefs when free agency opens Wednesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.
Confirmation of Watkins' plans will come when players can officially sign with teams, but he appears headed back to the AFC after spending last season with the Rams. A theoretical Watkins-Tyreek Hill combination would give quarterback Pat Mahomes a dynamic wide receiver duo as he begins his stint as starter in Kansas City.
Previous reports suggested the Rams were undecided between tagging Watkins or safety Lamarcus Joyner, but it now seems the team wouldn't use its tag on the wideout even if Joyner were to agree to a long-term deal before Tuesday's 4:00 p.m. EST deadline for franchising players. The decision not to tag Watkins makes sense, as it would put his 2018 cap figure around $16 million, which might be taken as a highly favorable one-year, prove-it deal for a player coming off a disappointing statistical season. It's unclear if Watkins wants to follow in the footsteps of Alshon Jeffery from last year or simply take the more traditional approach of targeting a multi-year contract with as much guaranteed money as possible. A big 2018 campaign would boost Watkins' value far above where it currently sits, coming off a season in which he caught only 39 passes on 70 targets, albeit for 593 yards (15.2 per reception) and eight touchdowns.
The Rams may wait until the last minute to make a final decision, perhaps hoping to work out a long-term deal with one of the two players. Watkins is a bigger name among fans, but Joyner played at a higher level in 2017, and the franchise tag is much cheaper for safeties than for wide receivers. The 24-year-old wideout may soon have a shot to test free agency, where he and Allen Robinson (knee) would be the top two players at their position, assuming Robinson isn't tagged by the Jaguars.
Watkins said it would be a pleasure to re-sign with the Rams following Saturday's 26-13 loss to Atlanta in the wild-card round, the Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News reports. He caught one of four targets for 23 yards in the defeat.
With Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley garnering 37 looks from Jared Goff in the passing attack, there wasn't a lot left over for Watkins on Saturday. The pending unrestricted free agent did receive a fourth-and-goal target in the end zone with 2:11 remaining in the game that could have pulled the Rams to within seven points, but he and Goff failed to connect. Watkins finished the regular season with just 39 receptions for 593 yards, but his eight touchdowns buoyed his fantasy value to a degree. His virtual stock will remain in limbo until he signs a new contract, and despite his sentiments about returning to the Rams, he may price himself out of availability with his contract demands.
|2017||Los Angeles Rams||15||14||39||593||15.2||67||8||9||2||33|
|2017||Los Angeles Rams||15||14||0||0||---||0||0||0||0|
|2017||Los Angeles Rams||15||0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
|2017||Los Angeles Rams||15||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|