It's been rumored for weeks, but now it's official - the Buffalo Bills won't be picking up the fifth-year option of wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
"Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision", coach Sean McDermott said in a statement.
The decision speeds up the timetable for Watkins, who is now eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. "There is no question Sammy is a very good football player and has worked very hard during his rehab this offseason". When healthy, Watkins has looked like the number one receiver the Bills have long desired, but healthy is the operative keyword - and the option was guaranteed for injury. The receiver is on schedule to be cleared for the start of training camp in late July. If Watkins' performance this season is worthy of keeping him around in 2018, but he misses time with injury or otherwise is not as effective as possible, the transition tag could be a possibility next February.
By not exercising this fifth-year option, the Bills are not only restricting themselves for having Watkins' rights for only two years rather than three.
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On top of that, the Bills recently canned general manager Doug Whaley, the man who spearheaded the decision to trade up in the first round of the 2014 draft to get Watkins. The Bills sent the ninth overall selection in 2014, plus first- and fourth-rounders in 2015, to the Cleveland Browns for the fourth overall pick, which they used on Watkins. In 37 total games, Watkins has a total of 153 receptions for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns.
However, with a new regime in Buffalo, Watkins could be in line for a bounce-back year in 2017, especially if his health remains intact.
The Bills spent a second-round pick in this year's draft on record-setting former East Carolina wideout Zay Jones.
The Bills also announced they claimed cornerback Charles James a day after he was waived by the Indianapolis Colts.