The Buffalo Bills have officially declined to pick up wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ fifth-year option on his rookie contact, the team announced Tuesday.
“Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision,” Bills first-year head coach Sean McDermott said, via Buffalo’s team website. “There is no question that Sammy is a very good football player and has worked very hard during his rehab this offseason. We look forward to seeing a healthy Sammy Watkins on the field in 2017.”
Buffalo’s 2014 first-round pick will now enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2017, and could potentially set himself up for a big payday should he stay healthy and perform well this upcoming season. The Bills could always use the franchise tag to keep Watkins in Buffalo following the 2017 season, but are clearly not willing to take the risk of exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound receiver showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons in the league, but a nagging foot injury limited him to just eight games and a career-low 430 receiving yards this past season.
The Bills hoped Watkins could be the franchise’s No. 1 receiver for at least a decade when trading up for him in the 2014 draft, and are now just hoping he stays on the field in 2017. Watkins, 23 is coming off a second foot surgery this offseason but is looking to return to form in a contract year.
Buffalo’s top receiver caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and scored nine touchdowns during the 2015 season and could put Buffalo in a tough spot with a bounce-back year. The Bills surely hope Watkins can be an impact receiver for them in 2017, but are also expecting big things from rookie receiver Zay Jones.
Buffalo traded up in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select the 6-foot-2, 201-pound East Carolina receiver, as they likely believe he can be an impact playmaker for their offense immediately. Jones shined in the Senior Bowl back in January and is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard plus receiving seasons in the American Athletic Conference.