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Chiefs suggest retaining Sammy Watkins will be ‘a lot more challenging’ in 2021

By the sound of it, the wide receiver has played his final game as a Chief.

Super Bowl LV Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17 when the new NFL league year begins. The 27-year-old spent the last three years with the Kansas City Chiefs and was their most productive receiver during the 2018 and 2019 playoff runs.

2020 was a different story, as Watkins missed the Chiefs’ first two playoff games with a calf injury, and he was limited to only 23 snaps in Super Bowl LV. He made one catch for 13 yards. He was limited to 10 regular-season games as he dealt with calf and hamstring injuries.

Watkins took a pay cut to stay with the Chiefs for last season, and he expressed possibly wanting to return for 2021 during Super Bowl week. However, it does not seem as though the Chiefs are optimistic that they will be able to strike another deal.

“I’ve said it many times before — I love Sammy and love what he does for our offense,” acknowledged Chiefs general manager Brett Veach on Monday. “There will be challenges this year. It will be a lot more challenging to retain him and bring him back this year just because of where we are. We were able to work with him and his agent last year and make it work. This year will probably be even more difficult just because we’ll have some work to do to get under the cap, and once we do, we have to see where the markets go.”

The Chiefs are currently listed as $19 million over the salary cap, according to Spotac, which is using a $185 million cap, though recent reports suggest it will be less than that.

If Watkins does not return, the Chiefs might have to seek depth at the position in free agency and the NFL Draft.

“It’s a pretty deep class in regard to free agency and that receiver position, and typically like most years there are numbers from top down in the receiver position in the draft,” said Veach. “I think we’re certainly blessed to have Tyreek Hill and expecting big things out of Mecole Hardman this year and I think we’re all excited about the development of Byron Pringle. So, we feel really good about those three players and I think in free agency we’ll be smart and if something makes sense for us, we’ll do what we do every year and listen.

“I can’t see us running out of the gates the first week in free agency to sign a receiver. I don’t think that’s where we’re at, but if the market falls and things make sense for us, I think we’ll be smart and selective. Then, if something doesn’t work out in free agency, I think there’s depth in that position to address it potentially in the draft.”

If Watkins’ Chiefs career is indeed over, he finishes with 129 catches for 1,613 yards and eight touchdowns (34 regular-season games).


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