The wide receiver, drafted fourth overall out of Clemson three years ago, has incurred multiple injuries over his first three seasons, the latest being a foot ailment that landed him on injured reserve in 2016. The Bills have seen Watkins miss 11 games over the past two years and are reportedly hesitant about extending the wideout through 2018.
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According to WGR 550's Sal Capaccio, the team has not yet picked up Watkins' option because the fifth year is guaranteed against injury. If Buffalo exercises the option, the Bills will shell out around $13 million in 2018, more than double what Watkins is earning in 2017.
While new coach Sean McDermott has said recently that his star wideout has suffered "no setbacks" in his rehab and should be in the organization's plans in 2017, it will be hard to evaluate Watkins' value to the team going forward if he continues to miss significant time in-season.
Hints at Watkins' future with the club should come on draft night. The Bills are slated to pick 10th in the first round and have been linked to the class's top two wideouts, Mike Williams and Corey Davis. It would be quite cruel for Buffalo to draft Williams, a Clemson wideout in the same mold as Watkins, and then choose to bypass the veteran's fifth year, but that's the business.
If Buffalo chooses not to exercise the option, it can always offer Watkins an extension during the season or place the franchise tag on him in the offseason if he stays healthy and produces at a level worthy of a longer deal. That's a big if.