The Green Bay Packers have finally added a wide receiver after losing Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown this offseason. Sammy Watkins agreed to a deal in Green Bay worth up to $4 million. It’s probably around $2 million, plus incentives, but the exact details haven’t emerged yet.
Why they did it
The reason why the Packers decided to bring Watkins in is clear: They need multiple receiving options after losing two of their best three players, including an All-Pro. A boundary receiver was especially important, considering Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers played most of their snaps last season from the slot. As a 6’1”, 211 lbs. wide receiver, Watkins is the exact type of wideout the Packers needed to have some depth and alleviate the positional hole before the draft.
Watkins’ role should be similar to the ones he’s had recently in his career when he played for the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens. He doesn’t have the same athletic ability he had in his first years in the NFL, but he’s still decently fast and can be a possession receiver playing from the outside.
“Sammy Watkins is a gem,” said Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman during the last training camp, right after Watkins had signed a deal in Baltimore. “He’s a great player and a great person. Sammy, to me, is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Period.”
Watkins is also a good run-blocker, something vital for what LaFleur likes to run.
The Packers needed to add a veteran wide receiver to ease the transition between the Adams era and the new players they will draft. Fortunately, Watkins has a strong connection with two members of Green Bay’s current offensive staff.
Packers wide receivers coach Jason Vrable was on the Buffalo Bills’ coaching staff during the first three years of Sammy Watkins’ career. First, he was an offensive quality-control coach, then transitioned to an assistant quarterbacks/interim running backs coach in 2016.
In 2017, Buffalo traded Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams, and he played under then offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who’s now the Green Bay Packers’ head coach. His most productive years were his second year in Buffalo (2015) and his only season in Los Angeles. He scored nine and eight touchdowns, respectively.
It’s worth noting that general manager Brian Gutekunst tried to sign Watkins as a free agent in 2018, but he signed a larger deal in Kansas City. The appreciation for his game in Green Bay’s front office isn’t new.
It’s important to temper expectations
Watkins was a great prospect coming out of Clemson. Buffalo traded up to the fourth-overall pick to get him in a class that already had Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry. But the reality is that he’s had an underwhelming career because of injuries and lack of great performance.
Watkins was a solid third option in the Chiefs’ offense behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce during their Super Bowl run in 2019. However, he hasn’t had a season with more than three touchdowns since 2017, when he played under LaFleur in Los Angeles, and he hasn’t achieved a 1,000-yard season since 2015.
Therefore, Packers fans can’t think Watkins will arrive in Green Bay as a bonafide WR1. He’s a complementary piece to the offense but can’t be counted as more than that. If he outperforms his contract, great. But that’s a hope, not a plan.
Although signing Watkins is important to alleviate the wide-receiver need in the draft, his arrival cannot change Green Bay’s plans. Watkins is only a depth option at this point. He signed a one-year contract, but the Packers need long-term answers. If the initial plan is to draft two or three receivers in two weeks, it’s probably still the path Gutekunst will take, regardless.
The Packers now have four wide receivers that should be on the roster by Week 1 (Watkins, Lazard, Cobb, Rodgers). There should be two or three spots available, and the draft still is the best way to fill them.