Since before free agency began, all signs pointed to veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins being a logical fit to sign with the Baltimore Ravens. Now that the Ravens missed out on signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and the other first-wave WRs on the market, the pairing seems to make more sense by the day.
There are several connections and factors that immediately jump out:
- Watkins had his most productive seasons (first two years in Buffalo) under offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
- He recently trained with new Ravens’ pass-game specialist Keith Williams and there’s a connection between those two as well.
- At this point in his career, Watkins has openly stated he cares more about winning than anything else (which would fit the mentality the team might need from a WR willing to take a backseat in a run-first offense).
- He shares similar traits to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and first-year WRs Devin Duvernay and James Proche — vertical speed, change of direction, shifty in and out of his breaks. Not only would they present a tough group for defenses to match up against (by furthering the team’s downfield speed and ability to gain separation) but Watkins could be a natural mentor.
- But at 6’1 211 pounds, Watkins also has the size and savvy to attack routes over the middle and has evolved his game into a reliable intermediate target at Kansas City, something the Ravens could definitely use at the WR position.
It seems like Watkins has been in the league forever but he’s only 27 years old — the same age as Kenny Golladay — and will be 28 in June.
Watkins has never lived up to the hype of being the top receiver drafted from the now infamous 2014 draft class. He’s also struggled to stay healthy. In his seven seasons in the league, the former No.4 overall pick has only played 16 games once and that was his rookie season.
In three seasons with the Chiefs, Watkins missed six games twice. In 2019, when he played in 14 games, the team won its first Super Bowl in over 50 years and Watkins was a catalyst for the offense. He made a clutch catch against Richard Sherman in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, beating the former All Pro in one-on-one coverage down the right sideline. The play capped off a lead-clinching and ultimately game-winning drive.
During that entire 2019 playoff run, Watkins was magnificent, catching 14 balls for 288 yards, including a five-catch, 98-yard game against the Niners. He actually outproduced Tyreek Hill during that run.
But in order to add more depth to the Watkins analysis beyond the pure numbers and stats, we decided to gain firsthand perspective from the Kansas City media.
Charles Goldman is the Managing Editor of Chiefs Wire and was gracious enough to give RSR his time to gain more insight into Watkins and his potential fit with the Ravens.
Q: How would you assess Sammy Watkins’ time with Kansas City? The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I think you can really sum it up with the following statement: “The Chiefs don’t win Super Bowl LIV without Sammy Watkins.” 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 — that and the tweets about being a “reptilian solar being.”
Q: Ravens nation is rightly concerned about Watkins given his injury history but there is also a sentiment that he wouldn’t present an upgrade at WR over the guys they have. What are your thoughts?
Well, let me start with the injury situation. Watkins has absolutely earned the reputation of being injury-prone. 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.
I do think that he’d be an upgrade over what the Ravens currently have in the receiver room. 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. 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.
Q: Watkins seemed to work really well as a second option in the Kansas City pass offense scheme with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Ravens have a similar yet less accomplished 1-2 punch with Brown and Andrews. How might Watkins work with them in a similar way?
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 (MOF) 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.
Q: What do you think about the possible fit between Watkins and the Ravens? Baltimore is a run-first team and has a lower passing volume than KC. Would that be an issue for Watkins and his overall effectiveness?
Watkins has come out and said before that he wants to see volume in the passing game, like 1,000-yard receiver stuff. I think his role in an offense like that could be a bit of an issue for him, but he also has to be healthy to be able to have the type of season he’s talked about. He hasn’t shown any unwillingness when it comes to throwing a block in the running game or blocking to spring his teammates in the passing game.
He can be a team player, but I think the Ravens will really have to sell him on their vision for him within their scheme. He also values a lot of the non-football stuff, like the locker room and coaching chemistry, so a lot of it could come down to how he feels about that.