Sammy Watkins’ future beyond the 2017 NFL season just became less clear.
The Buffalo Bills announced Tuesday that they will not exercise the wide receiver’s fifth-year contract option for 2018. The team needed to decide by Wednesday whether to pick up the option, which would have put Watkins in line to earn $13.258 million in 2018, according to ESPN.com.
“Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said, per ESPN.com. “There is no question that Sammy is a very good football player and has worked very hard during his rehab this offseason. We look forward to seeing a healthy Sammy Watkins on the field in 2017.”
Watkins now is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2017 season, although there still are several ways that Buffalo could lock up the talented wideout beyond that. Essentially, by declining Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills have decided to wait and see how he performs in 2017 before making a sizable financial commitment to the 23-year-old.
It’s a risk that ultimately could cost Buffalo more money if Watkins performs at a high level this season. Or it perhaps could even lead to his departure. But the Bills now won’t be on the hook for the aforementioned $13.258 million if Watkins struggles or is hurt again, each of which is a distinct possibility, given his track record since entering the league as the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Watkins, who turns 24 next month, is extremely talented, but he also was limited to eight games last season and has been hampered by injuries in the past.
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