After being selected No. 4 overall in 2014, Watkins generated two productive seasons, compiling 2,029 yards and 15 TDs. Injuries, however, persisted. The Bills jettisoned the former first-round pick in a trade, giving up on him after three seasons and numerous injuries.
Watkins spent one season in Los Angeles where he was a secondary weapon with the Rams, then signed a three-year $48 million contract in Kansas City.
"A lot of ups and downs. A lot of trials and tribulations," Watkins told NFL.com of his journey to Super Bowl LIV. "A lot of hard pain, suffering, but a lot of great moments. To get here, I've went through a lot. I've sacrificed a lot. I've went through so many different phases of myself. I've lost myself, I've found myself. It's a very special moment for me right now. It's so surreal. I have went through a lot to get to this space right now."
The soft-spoken receiver has clearly been molded by the experience of washing out of Buffalo.
"You go through injury. Being the first round, fourth pick, you have two great years, and then after that, you just have a spiral of injuries down," he said. "The media bash you, not really bash you, but injuries, you know? That's detrimental to yourself when you're in this league. When you're not available, you're nobody. I went through that whole process of being down, being depressed, being counted out, not being able to perform, and not being able to be out on the field for two, three years, and show my abilities, show my gift. That hurt. (It took) a lot of reflection (to get over). I think those were the best moments that I had to find myself and fight through depression, fight through being down. I had a lot of time, handle a lot of family issues that I was battling with. Now all those things are on the high and everything is going great. It's amazing."
The 26-year-old believes he's finally found a home in Andy Reid's offense.
"(Joining the Chiefs) was the best decision of my life," Watkins told NFL.com Thursday. "My first year we go to the third round, a game away from the Super Bowl, and then to get back here again, that's special. I don't see a lot of people doing that as far as organizations as a whole. I think that shows what this team is about."
"You never know. I have a lot of dreams and a lot of things I want to do. But hopefully I am here for the next..." he paused, considering "...until coach Reid retires. When he goes, I'm going to go. So, if I'm here a long time, I would definitely want to be here. And if I'm not, I'm going to take my dreams somewhere else and make the best of it."
Set to count $21 million against the salary cap with a base salary of $13.75 million, none of which is guaranteed, Watkins understands if the K.C. brass would approach him about a pay cut or just cut him outright.
"They might, you never know," he said matter-of-factly.
The Chiefs could save $14 million in cap space with $7 million in dead money by cutting him this offseason.
Watkins said Thursday that taking a pay cut might be something he'd be open to if it kept him employed in the place he's finally found peace. The wideout pointed out he's aware Patrick Mahomes needs to get paid.
"I don't want to say I will be (open to a pay cut). I don't want to say I won't," he said. "I just think I'm a special player. I think I deserve all the things I deserve. If I'm at home and thinking about it, if I have to do it to pay Pat, I maybe will. That's a guy that we should pay, and he needs to get paid. But you never know, that's a decision I'd have to go through."
There is a third option Watkins added unprompted.
For those who believe a complementary receiver who generated 519 yards and 673 yards along with six total touchdowns in 24 regular-season games in his two seasons in K.C. doesn't merit the money owed, Watkins noted he's worth more than on-field production.
"I don't think numbers prove anything," he said. "Numbers are just numbers to me. Numbers may mean a lot to the world, but I don't think that proves what I do for this team. Me bringing the great energy every day, me being the person that I am...if you can value me off that, I think my value would be very high. I don't think my value is all off scoring touchdowns or getting 1,000 yards receiving. I don't think I'm valued like that. I'm valued off being around the guy, being positive, coming into work every day, being a professional. I think if you would judge me off that, you would give me the world."
Watkins has been big for Kansas City in key playoff bouts, including this year's AFC Championship Game in which he generated seven receptions for 114 yards and the game-sealing TD. Whether that's worth K.C. bringing him back at a high salary in 2020 or whether Watkins would take a pay cut or restructure to stay with Mahomes, the receiver has something to ponder after the Super Bowl.