It wasn’t all that long ago that St. Louis Rams fans annually spent their offseasons clamoring for a “true No. 1” wide receiver — a legitimate deep threat that had been missing from the offense for what seemed to be ages. And each year, as free agency and the draft approached, those same fans discussed the matter, oftentimes using the phrase “the Rams haven’t had a wide receiver with more than 700 yards since...”
But the Rams have yet to find the next coming of WR Torry Holt or WR Isaac Bruce, whether it be through free agency or the NFL Draft.
There was a time where WR Mike Sims-Walker might’ve been the free agent addition that got their aerial attack going. He wasn’t. How about WR Steve Smith? No, not that Steve Smith. The other one. Didn’t work. Surely WR Wes Welker can get help improve the league’s worst third down team. Wrong again. WR Titus Young had potential, but alas it just didn’t pan out.
The draft hasn’t done them any favors either. Who would’ve thought that drafting Brooks Foster, Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin wouldn’t right the ship? In 20.5 combined seasons (with the Rams), that bunch has tallied 588 catches, 6,841 receiving yards, and 37 touchdowns. That’s...not good. I could throw Bud Sasser in there, but it really wouldn’t do much good. Trust me.
As far as the draft goes, the fan base wanted the studs: Justin Blackmon, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Laquon Treadwell among others. Not that all of them panned out, of course.
The fans definitely wanted Sammy Watkins — a name oft mentioned in mock drafts in the run up to the 2014 NFL Draft. The Rams decided to go another route selecting OL Greg Robinson.
Fast forward to 2017, and the Rams got Sammy! They finally got their guy. Sure, it cost them a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the woes of not having that “true No. 1” wide receiver are behind them.
Well, not really.
The 2018 free agency window opens soon, and it appears the armchair GM’s are split on whether or not the team should re-sign him. Despite scoring a touchdown on over 20% of his catches, a 39 catch, 593 yard campaign in 2017 has some fans questioning whether his tenure with the Rams should already be coming to a close.
Franchise tagging him is an option. But that carries a close to $16m cap hit. $16m for 600 yards?
They can always sign him long-term. But they’ve got others, like DL Aaron Donald and S Lamarcus Joyner, worthy of multi-year deals.
They could also just opt to let him walk and find his payday elsewhere. The Rams’ passing game was revitalized in 2017 under new Head Coach Sean McVay. WR Robert Woods, who is under contract, and rookie WR Cooper Kupp stepped up in a big way for the Rams. Guys like WR Pharoh Cooper and WR Josh Reynolds could be asked to play a bigger role in the offense in 2018, which would allow the team to spend it’s cash elsewhere.
The fact of that matter, however, is that Watkins is a damn good receiver. So your stance - whether it be that he just isn’t an integral part of McVay’s offense, or that he just didn’t often factor into the offense because he was often on the backside of formations and QB Jared Goff wasn’t quick enough through his reads to see that Sammy might’ve been open - are valid. There’s some truth to all of it.
So it begs the question of return on investment. If the Rams are to expect similar results in 2018 - which is very unpredictable - is it worth that kind of cash? Or is Watkins worth every penny because he garners the respect of an opposing defense, freeing up others to do some damage?
We’ll soon find out whether or not Watkins is part of the team’s short/long-term plans. But while we’re here, let’s have the Turf Show Times team weigh in on what they feel is most important - talent or the production - and what the right move is for the Rams.
Elijah Kim (@Football_EZK)
In this rare case, I think Watkins’ talent is more important than productivity. Unfortunately for Watkins, talent alone doesn’t get one paid in the NFL. While Watkins didn’t put up elite numbers due to the Rams “spread it around” system with Woods and Kupp both putting up better yardage numbers, Watkins has a unique role in keeping the defense honest.
In an ideal world, the Rams can come to a two- or three-year agreement with him that is an overpay in terms of his current production but an underpay in his talent. While his talent may be at the level of Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffrey or Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams, in the Rams’ offense his production will not eclipse those two players. Push come to shove, let Watkins try and get Davante Adams money. Hopefully however, the Rams should sign him to a two-year, $22m deal.
Talent. He has to be accounted for by defenses. This allows others to get open. If not covered, bombs away. The Rams’ core of WR are good and can become the best in the league.
I would “tag” him. Playing as he did last year, look at where the Rams offense finished. It can only get better with experience at the same time developing the younger players for the future beyond Sammy.
What have you done for me lately? That’s what we ask out of players. Production from Watkins is what the team should want to see. There is no need to have another high priced decoy on offense.
I believe Watkins can pull up good numbers. I do not believe his touchdown, red zone production was a fluke.
Now with that said, I do not believe Sammy is worth the franchise tag. If they want a one-year deal to see how his on-field chemistry with Goff improves, make that bih incentive-laden like the Eagles did with Alshon. If things go good, sign him long term.
The non-exclusive transition tag is another option.
When it comes to Watkins, and his future with the Rams, there is only one clear answer here ... talent means nothing without production. Look at Austin, who has all the talent in the world, but outside of one 10-TD season, he’s largely been a bust with the Rams.
Sammy Watkins led all Rams WR’s with eight touchdowns in 2017, which is nice, but outside of that he was mostly missing on the stat sheet on a weekly basis. I would also argue that Woods and Kupp were huge benefactors of Watkins being on the field with them. I’m not sure that those two players put up 1,650 yards and 10 TD’s with Mike Thomas, Reynolds or Cooper out there.
I do question if Watkins can become a bigger part of this offense moving forward, because a $16m decoy is not something I normally accept. However, if the Rams do decide to either franchise Sammy or hand him a large contract, McVay must think that he can get more out of him, and that would be good enough for me.
For me, it’s obviously production. We have to be careful of just rooting for talent, because that’s how we contradict ourselves. If you’re going to go by talent for one player, than we have to for all players. Therefore if you want to keep Watkins by any means necessary because of his talent, then you better want to keep Tavon Austin too. And you better be starting a petition to bring Robinson back as well. And while you’re at it, let’s go out and sign Sam Bradford this offseason and get him back to backup Goff. I say this every offseason for what feels like 1,000 times over
Potential gets coaches fired. Production gets extensions.
I’d rather not break the bank on a player than van be easily replaced. You’re no longer easily replaced when you’re a baller. Since he is not, he either takes what he deserves and hit the road.
P.S. If Jeffrey struggled to get a long-term deal and he’s had way more success than Watkins but has dealt with injuries, then why are people so sure Watkins market is going to be out of the Rams’ price range and they should just hit him with a $16m tag using up 35% of their available $45m in cap?
This is a weird question. I find that what he can do, or is capable of, is more important than how much production he had last season. The McVay offense has years of proof that the strength of it comes in the form of having fistfuls of playmakers. I’d be wary of the cost to retain him but even if his production marginally improves in 2018, it keeps the Rams offense dynamic.
Sosa Kremenjas (@SosaKre)
Production. It always comes down to production. Talent is nothing without production. At the end of the day, Watkins is a #1 WR in this league. I think he’s the ideal WR to have line up at X with his combination and ability to attack all three levels of the field, and do it all at a high level. That’s all fine and dandy, but he needs to be producing, too. If his production is low (and the Rams are paying a large amount of currency his way), he should and could be replaced.
At the end of the day, the WR in his role needs to be able to stretch the field and attack vertically which Josh Reynolds is best at. Now, I’m not saying Reynolds can easily replace Watkins and that’s the best decision to be made, because you will lose something there. Watkins is more than a deep threat. He’s a #1 WR who can challenge defenses in a bevy of ways. But again, what’s that worth if the production isn’t there? Will it ever be there in this type of offense? Who knows.
Ideally, Watkins produces more, and gets paid a fair amount for his services ensuring the Rams offense can continue at it’s strong pace.
Sean Wilkinson (@Papa_Lurch)
WRs and QBs need time to develop an on-field relationship. That’s something that Watkins and Goff didn’t have the opportunity to do last offseason. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I believe Watkins doesn’t need to have a huge stat line to be of value to the Rams. His value lies in pulling a team’s top CB away from Woods and by extension letting Kupp go against #3 CBs.
By keeping Watkins around - at a reasonable cap hit - the Rams can continue to exploit mismatches on offense as well as give Goff a chance to develop some chemistry with Watkins. I don’t think the Rams should tag Watkins, but I firmly believe that he is an asset to the team and that they’d be foolish to let him walk less than a year after trading for him. I could see an Alshon Jeffery type of situation where he signs a short term deal to prove his worth then re-negotiates after establishing himself in the Rams offense.
Anybody else find it weird we weren’t having this discussion about RB Todd Gurley last year? Gurley ran for just more than 55 yards per game in 2016. Nobody was calling him a bust or saying the Rams needed to find a new RB. There were mitigating circumstances. There was context. But because the Rams are forced to make a contract decision on Watkins this year (and they weren’t with Gurley) and that decision will likely cost them eight digits on the books this year (and it didn’t with Gurley), we’re throwing out our willingness to acknowledgement of the surroundings.
Sure, Watkins’ numbers were far from eye-popping. But flip him and Woods. If Woods was struggling to put up numbers going against Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson and Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and [insert whatever CB1 you want here that Watkins struggled against quantitatively] and Watkins was busting through CB2s because McVay’s system was pushing to use the competitive advantages wherever they were greatest and they were greatest in attacking those CB2s, the same people clamoring to move on from Watkins because of his low production would be crying to re-sign him to a huge contract that matches his market value and worrying about Woods’ low output.
It’s football. It’s complex. And the business side can be cold. But I don’t get the idea from moving on from a talent like Watkins just because his production wasn’t eye-popping in his first year with the Rams. We had one of the best offenses in the NFL with Sammy Watkins. Bring him back, hop in the saddle and just ride all over again.
Any way you slice it, I want Sammy Watkins in a Rams’ uni. His 600 yards and 8 touchdowns isn’t a great stat line, but the guy is capable of doing damage every time he’s on the field. I can’t even say I’m disappointed in what he did in the offense last season. He lead the team in touchdowns, and had zero drops. He’s TWENTY-FOUR years old and already has four seasons under his belt.
I like Reynolds and Cooper as much as the next guy, but neither of them are at Watkins’ level.
It’s talent for me. The guy is a stud. Hope they can find a way to make it work for the long run.