There was a time when it felt like Sammy Watkins was on the cusp of stardom. But injuries have kept Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, from having the career he once felt destined to have. And four years after signing a hefty deal with the Chiefs that was supposed to entrench him as an ace in Andy Reid’s offense, Watkins is reportedly signing what amounts to a one-year “prove it” deal with the Packers.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter has fresh details on the deal:
Packers are giving former Ravens’ WR Sammy Watkins a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 14, 2022
A one-year pact worth up to $4 million is a relative bargain for the Packers. It’s the kind of deal that we’ll roll our eyes at if/when Watkins puts up his first fully healthy season since 2014 while in Green Bay. But it is also the kind of deal that the Bears should keep in mind as they continue to browse the free agent market for receiver help.
Even though Watkins fell a few million short of Pro Football Focus one-year $5.5 million projection, his deal serves as a reminder of the type of value a receiver-needy team like the Bears can still find on the market. The time to make a splashy move is well behind us. However, this doesn’t mean tinkering here and there couldn’t be helpful. In fact, this is where a heady team could work the fringes of free agency to offer a player an opportunity to garner a hefty chunk of targets with a receivers room featuring Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Dazz Newsome behind Darnell Mooney on the depth chart.
T.Y. Hilton, Will Fuller V, Keelan Cole,
A.J. Green (he re-signed with the Cards moments after this post went live), and Odell Beckham are in that similar class where Watkins was before signing with the Packers. It’s a group of notable free agent receivers who could be in the market for the type of deal that could provide a soft landing in free agency and a launch point before they hit the market again a year from now. After all, GM Ryan Poles said he likes players who will come in with a chip on their shoulder wanting to prove themselves for when they re-enter free agency later.
And let’s not overlook the other side of the equation while discussing this matter.
Chicago presents a unique opportunity for a free agent receiver who has yet to latch on somewhere at this point of the offseason. And not just because they are $14,163,251 under the cap, per OverTheCap.com’s latest calculations. Catching passes from Justin Fields should be enticing enough. Let’s be real with each other. A year ago at this time, Fields was a highly touted quarterback prospect and would ultimately go off the board with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields would probably be this year’s QB1 if he was draft eligible. But if that isn’t enough, a clear path to a starting role (someone has to line up opposite of Mooney) sweetens the pot. As does the chance to play against what looks to be a soft schedule.
The Bears have all the makings of a team where a receiver can boost their free agency stock on a one-year “prove it” deal of their own. And I wonder if they’ll have a move up their sleeve, if not now, then perhaps when the dust settles after the NFL Draft.