GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have a veteran receiver familiar with coach Matt LaFleur’s offense in the fold.
Sammy Watkins, an eight-year veteran who had one of his best seasons in 2017 with LaFleur coordinating the Los Angeles Rams’ offense, made a free-agent visit with Packers officials Thursday and signed a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed to the USA TODAY Network. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet official.
NFL Network first reported that Watkins was in town and ESPN first reported the signing.
The Packers need veteran help at wide receiver after trading Davante Adams (Las Vegas) and losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Kansas City) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Chicago) in free agency. The free-agent market is picked clean, but Watkins was among a group of remaining veterans such as Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Will Fuller who remain without a team.
Though they have $15 million in cap space, the Packers weren’t looking to spend a lot and may view Watkins similarly to Devin Funchess, the veteran receiver they took a chance on two seasons ago. Funchess opted out of his first year because of COVID-19 and was not able to earn a roster spot the following year despite his experience.
The Packers are expected to invest heavily on wide receivers in the draft, but their only receivers with extensive playing time are Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. So, even with Watkins, they are likely to pursue other free agent possibilities or a trade to make sure they have enough experience within the group.
There are a lot of good wide receivers in the 2022 draft and teams who select one might be willing or forced for salary cap reasons to part with a veteran. Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers add someone between the end of the draft and the start of training camp.
Watkins, who turns 29 in June, has played for four teams in his career. The 2014 first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills played for the Baltimore Ravens last year, appearing in 13 games and catching 27 passes for 394 yards and a touchdown.
The 6-1, 211-pound receiver has battled injuries throughout his career and hasn’t appeared in 16 games in a season since his rookie season of 2014. Over the past four seasons, he has missed 17 games with thigh, calf, hamstring and foot injuries.
Over his eight seasons, Watkins has 348 catches for 5,059 yards (14.5 average) and 34 touchdowns. He has only had one 1,000-yard season (2015 with Buffalo) and has just nine touchdowns over his last four seasons.
The 2017 season was one of his best. He caught 39 passes for 593 yards (15.2) and eight touchdowns.
He signed a three-year, $48 million deal with Kansas City in 2018, but injuries limited his production and he averaged just 12.5 yards per reception and caught eight touchdown passes in 34 games. He has remained a solid deep threat with 20 catches of 20-plus yards in Kansas City and six last year.
He has 14 drops over the past four seasons.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism