Wide receiver Sammy Watkins will again headline the Kansas City Chiefs impending free agent list this offseason after signing a one-year incentive-laden extension last April. Unfortunately, calf and hamstring injuries hamstrung the seventh-year wideout again in 2020, limiting him to a career-low 421 yards across 10 games and costing him up to $7 million in incentives.
Watkins unselfishly took a pay cut last year in exchange for the chance to repeat as a Super Bowl champion, telling The Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger that “it’s not all about money.”
Now one game away from that reality, the former No. 4 overall pick was asked on Tuesday about the possibility of again re-signing with the cash-strapped Chiefs for the chance to potentially three-peat next season.
“Would I love a third ring? For sure,” Watkins told reporters. “I think it would definitely something to think about as far as my future and what I want to do as far as coming back. I would definitely not say no about it. Me and my wife have talked many times and my family and my parents [say], ‘Hey man, would you come back and win a third one?’ Yeah, I mean I don’t mind, but I definitely would have to sit there and think about it and go over with my kids and see what my future holds.”
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Brett Veach on Watkins: ‘I Love Having Him Around’
After dishing out long-term extensions to cornerstones Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones last offseason, the Chiefs will once again be up against the salary cap in 2021. However, after a COVID-19 ravaged season, the current all-time high cap number of $198.2 million is expected to drop up to 10-12%, potentially hitting a floor of $175 million per club. This development will certainly complicate the futures of Watkins and other mainstays set to drop off the Chiefs’ books in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, general manager Brett Veach — fresh off of a new six-year extension himself — addressed the team’s plans as they relate to retaining Watkins.
“Sammy [Watkins] is a big part of this offense,” Veach said on Tuesday, via ESPN’s Adam Teicher. “When he’s healthy, we’re better. If there’s a way we can make it work again, we’ll certainly try to do that. I love having him around.”
Still just 27 years old, Watkins theoretically has set himself up nicely for another shot sizeable free agent contract. According to Spotrac, his market value is currently estimated at $10.6 million per season, or the equivalent of a two-year, $21.3 million deal. That’s a similar estimate to the three-year, $30 million contract Pro Football Focus recently predicted Watkins would sign with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
Depending on the NFL’s final cap number, the Watkins situation is one worth monitoring, especially with fellow wideout Demarcus Robinson also hitting free agency and a strong receiver draft class expected in April.
Chiefs Preparing for Salary Cap Between $175-195M
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt echoed his general manager’s thoughts on Tuesday, while also prefacing the uncertainty around the team’s financial flexibility.
“Certainly we’ll try to keep as many of our guys together as possible,” Hunt said, via Teicher. “We’ve got a good core of talented young players. … Like every team we’ll have some challenges if the salary cap ends up being closer to $175 million than not.”
While no one in Kansas City’s front office is sure of the constraints they’ll be up against when free agency opens on March 17, Veach did reveal that the club is preparing road maps for scenarios between $175-195 million, per The Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell.
At present, the Chiefs would need to shed between $18-21 million in space for a $175 million cap, depending on where you look. Judging by the most recent media report from Pro Football Talk last month, which suggested the final number “could be in the range of $180 million,” the Chiefs shouldn’t find themselves in any significant danger.
However, Veach and company may need to make a few difficult business decisions to maintain the franchise’s financial health, which could leave some notable veterans as cap casualties.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!