Sammy Watkins wasn’t in the top tier of all the available wide receivers still on the market after the initial wave of NFL free agency. Of course, that tier consisted of receivers with some blemishes in their own right, or else someone would’ve scooped them up sooner.
The Green Bay Packers’ decision to add Watkins became official on Thursday. The move is fine considering that the Packers needed to add bodies to the room, it doesn’t exactly move the needle.
Availability has been Watkins’ biggest problem throughout his career. Thanks to persistent injuries, he’s often on the sidelines, out of uniform. Watkins played more than nine games in a season only once in the last four years. There’s injury risk with anyone in football; no man is invincible. But there are those who are prone to ending up on the shelf, and Watkins is one of them.
It’s been said that availability is often the best ability, and Watkins struggles to stay on the field. However, Green Bay is in pretty rough shape at wide receiver, so getting Watkins on a cheap one-year deal is fine on the surface. Fingers crossed that he will not only stay healthy but produce.
Regarding his production, see the availability part of Watkins’ resumé. Just once in the last six seasons has he gobbled up more than 50 receptions, and he only has nine touchdowns in the previous four years combined.
Green Bay needed to do something at wide receiver, and this move won’t burn their pockets. Still, expectations should be somewhat tame. Names like Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr. remain on the free-agent market. While all three will carry a heftier price tag than Watkins, it may be worth the cost of admission.
Jones and Beckham Jr. are no strangers to the injury bug themselves, but both are far more productive than Watkins when they are on the field.
Even at age 33, Jones is still a matchup nightmare for opposing cornerbacks, and he has earned plenty of attention.
It didn’t work out in his lone season with the Tennessee Titans. As a result, he’s back on the market. Jones is often labeled as someone who gets hurt a lot, but one caveat is his ability to play through a lot of those injuries.
Jones has played at least 14 games in six of his last eight years in the NFL, and he didn’t miss a game in three of those seasons. The previous two years have left a lot to be desired. However, he mostly stayed on the field before that.
Again, the price tag would be loftier for a player of his caliber. That likely played a part in Green Bay’s decision to go with Watkins over someone like Jones, but the impact isn’t likely to be the same.
Perhaps Green Bay isn’t done dabbling in the free-agent market, and this is just the beginning. The Watkins signing surely doesn’t signal that they feel comfortable with the current wide receiver room.
Nobody expects Watkins to come in and produce at a No. 1 wideout level. Even at age 28, he’s far past that stage of his career. In the best-case scenario, Watkins stays healthy, plays in most of the games in 2022, and produces at a No. 3 wideout level.
It will take a small army and plenty of moves on the board to try and replace what Green Bay had when Davante Adams and MVS were in the mix, and it won’t happen in short order. The Watkins move shows a commitment to maximizing this championship window that Green Bay still believes exists. However, it isn’t a move that will move the needle too much.
Signing Watkins is the first move for the Packers to bolster their wide receiver room, but it certainly won’t be the last. And it won’t change their strategy on how to attack the draft and utilize their early picks.