The Green Bay Packers have signed free agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a one-year deal worth $4 million according to several sources. Watkins arrived for a visit with the Packers on Thursday and signed that afternoon.
Watkins will give the Packers an experienced receiver who can be in the team’s top three, something they clearly needed after the departure of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The 28-year-old Clemson alum was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Bills. He has good speed and ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the combine before he was drafted.
Watkins’ best two seasons were his first two in the NFL. He had a career-high 65 catches as a rookie and then had a career-best 1,047 yards in 2015 to go along with nine touchdowns.
Since then, Watkins has struggled to stay healthy. His rookie year is the only time in his NFL career he’s played in every game in a season. In 2021, he played 13 games with the Ravens while he appeared in 10 games with the Chiefs in 2020.
Watkins won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs after the 2019 season and was a big contributor to the team’s playoff run. In the AFC Championship Game against the Titans, he caught seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. In the Super Bowl against the 49ers, he added five more catches for 98 yards as the Chiefs won 31-20. In seven career playoff games, Watkins has caught 26 passes for 500 yards and a touchdown.
Watkins spent 2021 with the Ravens and his position coach there was Tee Martin who is the father of Packers second-year wideout Amari Rodgers. A thigh injury limited Watkins to 13 games and he caught 27 passes for 394 yards and a touchdown. He was inactive when the Packers faced the Ravens last season after entering the league’s Covid protocols.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is familiar with Watkins. The two worked together when Watkins played for the Rams in 2017 and LaFleur was the Rams offensive coordinator. Watkins caught eight touchdowns that season with Los Angeles.
Watkins has also worked with Packers receivers coach Jason Vrabel during his NFL career. Vrabel was the Bills quality control coach from 2013-15 and the final two seasons he spent in Buffalo were Watkins first two NFL campaigns and his most productive.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has already indicated he is looking forward to working with Watkins. He texted Pat McAfee that “Talked to Sammy Watkins last night. Excited about the signing. Can’t wait to get to work.”
Watkins has experience working with Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson and will now get to work with Rodgers.
The Packers still have an urgent need to add talent at the wide receiver position. Watkins is here on a one-year deal and will give the Packers experience, some speed and will likely serve as a bridge between the recently departed MVS and one or more of the rookies the Packers add in this year’s draft. He can also help mentor the young receivers along with Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard and give Rodgers an experienced and reliable target to work with.
What Watkins doesn’t give the Packers is a bona fide WR1. The team still has nobody on their roster who even approaches that description. Whether GM Brian Gutekunst adds a WR1 via a trade, adds another free agent or drafts one or more wideouts remains to be seen. It will likely be a combination of the three with at least two receivers likely to be added in the draft.
If Watkins can stay healthy, he can give the Packers an experienced target who can improve the talent level in the receiver room. But the receiver position remains the Packers biggest and most immediate need and Watkins’ signing doesn’t change that.
This was a low-risk signing that improved the Packers weakest position. Now the work of learning the playbook and getting to know his new teammates begins for Watkins.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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