After months of speculation about the future of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Kansas City Chiefs and the veteran receiver have agreed to a restructured contract that will keep Watkins in Kansas City for the 2020 season.
First reported by Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports, Watkins' new deal will pay him a base salary of $9 million in 2020 with incentives that could pay him as much as $16 million, a significant drop from his previous $21 million cap hit. The move frees up $5 million in cap space for the Chiefs, which also happens to be the approximate number that the Chiefs will need to sign their draft class.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Watkins' deal includes a no-trade clause, a rarity in the NFL. Reports throughout the offseason indicated that Watkins wanted to stay in Kansas City, and that aligns with the structure of this new deal. This guarantees that Watkins won't be cut or traded, giving him another year in Andy Reid's system, catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. Next offseason, Watkins can hit the open market in a free agency period that will likely be more friendly to free agent wide receivers.
Before the deal, the Chiefs and GM Brett Veach were operating with less than $200 in salary cap space. Not $200,000 — $200. Now the Chiefs have made one of their more obvious offseason moves — along with a variety of possibilities for Chris Jones and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — and the Chiefs now have some breathing room.
It's another one-year deal for the Chiefs, which sets them up for a 2021 offseason that will come with a presumably enormous salary cap inflation and a shedding of a handful of contracts, giving them the flexibility they'll need in 2021 and beyond to kick off Patrick Mahomes' mega-deal and the option to give Jones his long-term contract.
The structuring of the incentives, reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, gives Watkins a variety of performance and postseason incentives that provide Watkins a chance to earn a significant amount of additional money in 2020, but insures that the Chiefs will only have to meet that number if Watkins performs well and stays healthy for the majority of the 2020 season.
After the news broke, Watkins took to Twitter to announce his return, and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes expressed his excitement for the news.
To this point, Kansas City's offseason has been encapsulated by the hashtag #RunItBack, as the Chiefs have retained the vast majority of their Super Bowl-winning roster. After re-signing WR Demarcus Robinson to a one-year deal, the 2020 roster will look extremely similar to the 2019 group.
Field Yates of ESPN broke down the numbers, noting that — as of right now — 10 of the offense's 11 Super Bowl starters will return, with the exception of guard Stefen Wisniewski. Plus, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy seemed poised for an NFL head coaching position that never materialized over the offseason.
In an uncertain offseason, coming off a Super Bowl campaign, the Chiefs showed that they valued Watkins as a steady element of the offense, and Watkins followed through on his desire to stay in Kansas City. Watkins gets a strong one-year deal, the Chiefs get some cap relief, and the band stays together.
A good sign for Operation #RunItBack.