Chiefs Receiver Rules Out Retirement, But Could Sit Out Until June

Sammy Watkins

Getty Images Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins

The Kansas City Chiefs made their first offseason transaction on Tuesday with the signing of nine practice squad players to futures contracts. General Manager Brett Veach and his staff will have no shortage of difficult roster decisions to make in the coming months as contracts for two dozen players from last season’s roster are set to expire.

Despite a contract that runs through the end of next season, one player to watch closely this offseason is WR Sammy Watkins. The former No. 4 overall pick had a more productive season in 2019 than in his first stint with the team in 2018, racking up 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns over 14 games.

The dynamic wideout is scheduled to enter the final year of his three-year, $48 million extension in March. With it comes a $13.75 million base salary and a monstrous salary cap hit of $21 million. For a team in the bottom third of the league in available 2020 cap space, that math likely doesn’t add up. However, trading or cutting Watkins before June 1 would result in a cap saving of $14 million with only $7 million reverting to dead cap money, compared to his $22.46 million dead cap hit in 2019.

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In the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV, Watkins told the media that he’s open to the possibility of sitting out the entire 2020 season, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Teicher last week.

“If it suits me and my family and [meets] my needs, for sure,” Watkins said on January 30. “But I’m really in a different space right now. I don’t know what I’m going to do. If we win it, I might chill out. I might sit out a year. You just never know.

On Tuesday, the sixth-year playmaker elaborated on his future plans to SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“At the end of the day, I think the Kansas City Chiefs are in control as far as contract talks, you know?” said Watkins. “A guy of my stature, I’m still young, I still think I have a lot of good football in me. But as you know, it takes a toll on the body, the mental, the physical and I’m gonna really weigh my options out and see if I need to sit out the whole OTAs or something like that, just to get my mental back and be with my kids and family. It’s been a long season for the last two years. We’ve been in the playoffs, going all the way to the third round last year, then won the Super Bowl. So I honestly think mentally, physically, soulfully, spiritually, I need some downtime. So I will talk to coach [Andy] Reid about it.”

Last year, the Chiefs hosted their OTA offseason workouts on May 21-23, May 28-30 and June 4-7. While Watkins tentatively backed off his previous remarks of sitting out an entire season, it appears missing the first few months of the offseason program are very much in play.

“I don’t control the contract, a trade or if they’re going to give me a bigger contract,” Watkins continued. “That’s not my worry. I’m not really focused on the money aspect of it. I’m really focused on my health, mental health and really checking in on and making sure I’m OK with my life, my family, my wife, my kids. Once I figure that out, I think I’ll be fine.”

When asked further about the possibility of walking away from the NFL, the 26-year-old receiver ruled out retirement at this point in his career.

“I’m too young to retire,” said Watkins. “I have not done enough yet, you know what I mean? Why not go win another championship and continue to be great? … Be a Pro Bowl receiver. Be an All-Pro. There are a lot of things I haven’t accomplished yet being. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest accomplishments in this league but I haven’t did the individual goals yet and hopefully I can accomplish those next year either with the Kansas City Chiefs or another team.”

Given their salary cap and current roster, the most logical option for the Chiefs will be to move on, as NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported earlier in the week.

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