The Los Angeles Rams have made a decision regarding whom to designate as their franchise player:
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) March 6, 2018
By handing the non-exclusive franchise tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner, the Rams will have until March 12 to come to a deal with wide receiver Sammy Watkins before he can talk to other teams when the legal tampering period opens up. This is quite the change of heart for the Rams, who were reportedly expected to slap the tag on Watkins as recently as January.
If the Rams can’t agree on a new deal with Watkins before Monday, he’ll join Allen Robinson of the Jaguars at the top of the free agent market of wide receivers (more on him later today).
HOWEVER, Around the NFL Editor Gregg Rosenthal views signing Watkins as something of a risky endeavor, depending on what his market turns out to be. As it stands, Rosenthall sees Watkins as a player at the top of a list of free agents whose price tags could be a bit overpriced.
“Some team will dig up its old draft profile of Watkins and pay him like a No. 1 receiver. But Watkins was the third most productive wideout on his own team last year,” Rosenthal writes. “Watkins has only combined for 1,023 yards over the last two seasons, yet he could get a contrat that ranks among the top five NFL receivers because it’s so rare for a player with his profile to hit free agency. That’s a recipe for outsized expectations.”
Watkins averaged 62 catches, 1,014 yards, and eight touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, but never truly recaptured that magic while in Los Angeles. Watkins’ overall numbers (39 catches, 593 receiving yards) were disappointing, but he still hauled in eight touchdown passes as Jared Goff posted a 116.0 passer rating when he was targeted.
Even though Watkins wasn’t The Man in Los Angeles, he still has the combination of speed, prospect pedigree (as the fourth overall pick in 2014), and youth (doesn’t turn 25 until June 14) working in his favor. The Chicago Bears were connected to Watkins shortly after the Rams traded for Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. That deal changed a dynamic in Los Angeles’ front office and probably shifted their focus to ensure safety Lamarcus Joyner would return in 2018, even if it was on the franchise tag.
In the end, this could leave the Bears in a position to target another top receiver who previously was believed to be unavailable this offseason. Stay tuned.