What Would Sammy Watkins Bring to the Ravens?
With free-agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins reportedly in Baltimore today for a visit with the Ravens, Russell Street Report’s Dev Panchwagh reached out to Chiefs Wire's Charles Goldman for insight into the veteran and how he would fit with the Ravens.
Watkins, who played his past three seasons in Kansas City, may not be the "true No. 1 receiver" some Ravens fans covet, but he could be a valuable addition to Baltimore's offense in several ways, Goldman said.
"I think he'd help out the unit in providing a veteran presence with playoff experience, which really can't be overstated considering the goals of Baltimore," Goldman said. "His presence on the field would help free up some of the other guys like Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews in the passing game. He could also help with the development of some of those younger guys like Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
"I think that Watkins can definitely help out when the Ravens are giving run-first looks, be it as a blocker or running play-action. He'll also be an asset in the tight formations, where they're trying to establish the run and then spread a defense out a few plays later. I'm not sure that Watkins is going to be a big-play threat at this point in his career. In Kansas City, he feasted on the middle-of-field stuff like crossing routes, comebacks. He also does a really good job navigating traffic with the ball in his hands. Sometimes he'll be able to sneak behind the defense, but it's probably not the best part of his game."
Watkins' talent has never been an issue. The fourth-overall selection in 2014, Watkins totaled 125 receptions for 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons. His offensive coordinator in Buffalo at the time was current Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
The issue has been staying healthy. Watkins, 27, hasn't played in all 16 games since his rookie year. He's played in nine games or fewer in three of his seven NFL seasons.
As a result, Watkins has never come close to putting up the numbers he did in his first two seasons. In his past five seasons (one with the Bills, one with the Rams and three with the Chiefs), Watkins has averaged 39 catches and 527 yards.
This past season, Watkins missed seven games and finished with 37 catches for 421 yards (a career-low) and two touchdowns (tying a career low). His 11.4 yards-per-catch average also was a career low (although his 67.3 catch percentage was the second-highest of his career).
"Watkins has absolutely earned the reputation of being injury-prone," Goldman wrote. "He didn't have a single complete season in Kansas City and the latest one was pretty abysmal, especially late in the year. It's not like significant stuff either like breaks or sprains, it's soft tissue injuries that are lasting for months. Teams are going to have to feel comfortable with where Watkins is at health-wise before they sign him."
Despite Watkins' injury-marred stint in Kansas City, Goldman said the receiver's contributions during the Chiefs' 2019 Super Bowl run cannot be overemphasized.
"I think you can really sum it up with the following statement: 'The Chiefs don't win Super Bowl LIV without Sammy Watkins,'" Goldman said. "There's a reason that he's earned the nickname 'Playoff Sammy' during his time in Kansas City. This man has a penchant for coming up with clutch catches and monster performances in the playoffs, when things matter the most.
"I think you can toss out the bad and the ugly with Watkins when his contributions directly resulted in the Chiefs getting to and winning a game that they've been trying to get to and win for five decades. That'll be his legacy and what he's remembered for."
On a side note, the Ravens reportedly are not the only team interested in Watkins.
Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams Reportedly Take Pay Cuts
Defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have reportedly taken pay cuts, opening up additional cap space for the Ravens. The Ravens haven't confirmed this.
Combined with the re-signing of Derek Wolfe last week, the moves likely indicate the Ravens' defensive front will remain intact in 2021.
"There has been plenty of talk this offseason about the possibility of Brandon Williams, and to a lesser extent, Calais Campbell, getting released in cap-saving moves. Them agreeing to take pay cuts all but guarantees that they'll be back in 2021, the expected result all along," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. Campbell's base salary in 2021 went from $10 million to $2 million and he got a $6 million bonus. Williams' base salary dropped from $4.5 million to $1.5 million.
"So Campbell accepted a $2 million pay cut while Williams agreed to a $1.5 million camp cut. Both players will have an opportunity to earn the money back with playtime incentives. The moves allow the Ravens to create approximately $4.5 million of cap space without adding money onto future caps."
The Ravens, who are likely in the market for a pass rusher in addition to a receiver, currently have $18.6 million of salary-cap space, according to the NFLPA public salary cap report.
"That's enough to make a few moves," Zrebiec wrote.
Status of Orlando Brown Jr. Remains Biggest Offseason Question
While fans and pundits continue to speculate about how the Ravens will address their needs at receiver and pass rusher, the status of offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. remains a key question of the offseason, The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote.
If Brown gets his wish to be traded to a team in which he can play left tackle, "the search for a starting tackle would immediately become the most important business of the offseason," Walker wrote. "We didn't learn much about his situation in the first week of free agency, but it looms over everything."
Walker noted that all indications are that General Manager Eric DeCosta feels no pressure to trade Brown if a satisfactory market for the two-time Pro Bowl selection fails to develop.
"There are still half a dozen teams that could look to upgrade at left tackle over the next month, so interest in Brown could intensify rapidly," Walker wrote. "DeCosta said he wouldn't put a deadline on the issue, but it's hard to imagine he'd take it past the week of the draft. If the Ravens move Brown, they'll want to use a high pick on his potential replacement. The first round projects to be rich with options."