After their successful pursuit of Sammy Watkins, the Ravens will count on him to catch on quickly.
Finding a veteran target for Lamar Jackson was a priority this offseason, and Watkins has 33 career touchdowns on his resume and he is still only 27 years old. Injuries have been an issue for Watkins, who has not played 16 games since his rookie season in 2014. But Watkins helped the Kansas City Chiefs win a Super Bowl, and he is joining a team with designs on winning another. Here are five ways Watkins can help Baltimore.
Helping Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Mark Andrews
Brown (769 yards receiving) and Andrews (701) accounted for more than half of Baltimore's 2,919 receiving yards last season. Jackson targeted Brown 100 times, and he threw to Andrews (88 targets) almost as often. No other player was targeted more than 48 times.
While Brown and Andrews may continue to be Jackson's favorite go-to weapons, the hope is that Watkins will be a consistent third option in the passing game. When opponents rotate their defensive schemes toward containing Brown or Andrews, Watkins could see plenty of single coverage, giving him room to operate and take advantage of his run-after-catch skills.
Big Game Experience
The Ravens don't shy away from their Super Bowl aspirations, and Watkins is used to that mindset coming from Kansas City. He thrived in some big moments with the Chiefs during their Super Bowl run during the 2019 season. He had 10 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans. Then in Super Bowl LIV, Watkins helped seal the victory with six catches for 98 yards, including a key 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter after he made a sweet move against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.
Watkins' ability to shine in clutch situations should not be discounted. The Ravens have made the playoffs the past three years, but their passing attack has been stifled in their last three postseason defeats. If the Ravens can make it back to the playoffs with a healthy Watkins, he gives them another player capable of sparking their offense with a key play at the right time.
Mentoring Young Wideouts
The Ravens have young receivers like Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche looking to earn bigger roles in the offense. Watkins has knowledge he can impart to them. He was the fourth overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 draft, so he knows all about trying to meet high expectations when entering the league.
Watkins also has a close relationship with two members of the Ravens coaching staff. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was Buffalo's offensive coordinator in 2015 where Watkins had his best season (60 catches, 1,047 yards, nine touchdowns). Keith Williams, who is Baltimore's new pass game specialist, has also worked with Watkins as a personal coach during the offseason.
The Ravens lost their most experienced wide receiver when Willie Snead IV signed with the Las Vegas Raiders during free agency. Having Watkins in the wide receiver room should help the entire group.
Making Contested Catches
Watkins has the size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and athleticism to catch throws even when covered tightly. He'll get plenty of reps doing that in practice, working against Baltimore's talented cornerback group led by Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith. Their practice battles should be highly competitive.
The Ravens have run the football more than any NFL team the past two seasons, but when they face third-and-long situations, they need to make first downs more consistently with their passing game. Watkins isn't the deep threat he once was, but he does his best work running intermediate routes. When Jackson is forced to throw into tight windows, the Ravens hope Watkins can come up with contested catches that sustain drives.
More Draft Flexibility
Agreeing to terms with Watkins does not mean the Ravens won't take a wide receiver in the draft, even as early as the first round. But it takes away some of the urgency to add another impact wide receiver to their roster via the draft, free agency or trade.
This draft class is extremely deep at wide receiver, which increases the odds that Baltimore will take one. But with Watkins added to the fold, the Ravens have more options.