Bills decline to pick up Watkins’ fifth-year option

Team opts to roll the dice on their top receiver's future in Buffalo amidst reported concerns over his health

Sammy Watkins
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Miami Dolphins' Brent Grimes, right, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Sammy Watkins will be a Buffalo Bill in 2017. Beyond that, his future in Buffalo is now up in the air.

On Tuesday, the Bills announced they have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Watkins’ rookie year contract. That means Watkins will become a free agent after this fall, unless he and the Bills agree to an extension. Buffalo will also have the franchise tag available, in case the two sides cannot come to an extension agreement.

“Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in a statement released by the team. “There is no question Sammy is a very good football player and has worked hard during his rehab this offseason. We look forward to seeing a healthy Sammy Watkins on the field in 2017.”

Had the Bills picked up Watkins’ fifth-year option, he would have been owed $13.258 million in 2018. Instead, the Bills have chosen to wait and see how Watkins performs – and how healthy he stays – during the 2017 season before deciding on what to do long-term.

If the Bills choose to place the franchise tag on Watkins after this season, they will wind up paying him an estimated $3 million more than had they picked up his option. The franchise tag for wide receivers was close to $15 million this offseason and is expected to rise next spring.

Watkins has dealt with various injuries during his first three seasons in the NFL, playing in just eight games in 2016. His health is an obvious factor in the Bills’ decision and will be monitored closely this fall.

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