In the wake of winning Super Bowl LIV, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins gave an interview to Bleacher Report’s Ty Dunne, saying that he “will not play third or fourth fiddle on this team any more.”
The veteran pass-catcher made headlines by expressing how upset he was about the lack of marketing in which the Chiefs had involved him — and said “it’s going to be World War III” if the team didn’t “do right by him” in the upcoming season. Watkins also vowed not to take a pay cut.
But in the time between the interview and the article being published in May, Watkins agreed to a restructured contract that allowed the Chiefs to re-sign other important players to the team.
The Chiefs have reached an agreement with Sammy Watkins on a new 1-year deal that will pay him a base of $9m for 2020 with an incentive package that can reach $16m, a source tells me.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) April 3, 2020
The move creates $5m in cap space for the Chiefs to operate this offseason.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, he reflected on the big financial decision.
“I think I’ve made enough money,” Watkins acknowledged. “I’d love to make more money, but as far as being smart and being educated on this team, knowing that you got to pay Pat [Mahomes], you got to pay Chris [Jones], you got a lot of guys you got to pay.”
His salary wasn’t the only aspect of his career about which he has now appeared to reverse his stance. After brief daydreams of “building a Super Bowl winner as The Guy somewhere else,” Watkins clarified that he wants to win in Kansas City.
“[It was] very important to stay here. For what we did with winning the Super Bowl — and the type of team, coaches, and organization we have — why wouldn’t I stay?” he asked reporters.
He then explained more about his previous comments about individual success.
“I think every receiver wants to go out there and do well,” Watkins said. “Score touchdowns, catch as many balls as you possibly can, get the yards. And as myself, I want those types of things. Now do I have to be mad or angry at the guys going out there? No, I love my guys. I love to see guys going out there balling, and it’s my job and duty to serve others as well as they serve me.”
He had the full support of head coach Andy Reid in his drive for increased production.
“I’m a big Sammy Watkins fan.” Reid emphasized. “I think he’s a heck of a football player. He really helps make this thing go, offensively... I’d hope he’d want the ball more. That’s what great players want. So, that doesn’t bother me that he said that. I’m glad he’s back here, and he’ll have opportunities for sure.”
There’s only so many passes that can be thrown in a season. Deciding how to spread those out can be tough when two of the team’s receivers are All-Pros at their position — and everyone else can make a big play at any time. Watkins understands that — and even showed sympathy for his coaches.
“You’d love to have those numbers, love to have all those touchdowns, but you got to be realistic with yourself and say that we have arguably seven superstars on one offense. I just think it’s hard on the coaches; it’s not hard on me.”
Among those seven superstars are most of his wide receiver teammates. Known for their off-the-field shenanigans as much as their on-field play, Watkins talked about the ways teammates like receivers Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson have positively affected his life.
“When I got in, those guys were very tight-knit, close — and I was a guy that was kind of standoff-ish and quiet,” Watkins admitted. “But once I got here, those guys make me feel younger, make me dance, make me pop jokes and little stuff like that — so it kind of made me open up. It’s good to have a group of guys like that in the locker room to help you be yourself more.”
The closeness of the group is absolutely one of the reasons for the unit’s success — and going into 2020, their continuity is one of the biggest reasons for optimism. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes spoke about the importance of retaining Watkins in the offense.
“He does so many things well,” Mahomes said in his turn with reporters on Sunday. “[He] obviously catches the ball well, scores for us, makes a lot of plays after contact. But also blocking, running routes hard to get other guys open. In this offense, it takes every single person — and I think you saw that in the playoffs. When his number was called, he made big plays happen. It’s a guy we love having back.”
The postseason is where Watkins has shined in both of his Kansas City seasons. He’s averaged 93 receiving yards per postseason game during his Chiefs career, sealing the deal on the franchise’s first AFC Championship last year with a 60-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans.
But above all other plays, it was the 38-yard catch and run past San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman with less than four minutes left in Super Bowl LIV that Watkins will remember the most. He ranked the play among his career memories.
“Number one,” he declared. “Just to do it on the stage — and the timing of that game. To do it on I think arguably one of the top 10 corners, a Hall of famer, it’s definitely one for the memory bank. My family, friends [and] fans, they always remind me that’s one of the biggest plays of the game. So I can always take that with me.”
With good teammates, good memories and good vibes from the organization, Watkins didn’t leave anything up to interpretation. He is excited to complete the Chiefs’ Run it Back tour — and feels good about where he is.
“This is my happy place,” he said, “so why not take a smaller contract and come out here and play with the guys I’ve been playing with?”