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Bills not likely to pick up WR Watkins' 2018 option

By
Alex Butler
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is playing on the final guaranteed year of his rookie contract. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is playing on the final guaranteed year of his rookie contract. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

May 1 (UPI) -- Sammy Watkins better stay healthy and produce this season, or he could find himself out of Buffalo.

An anonymous NFL source told the Buffalo News the franchise is "unlikely" to pick up Watkins' fifth-year option by its Tuesday deadline. The source said the Bills aren't "comfortable with committing" to Watkins as he recovers from foot surgery.

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The Bills still could put the franchise tag on the wide receiver next offseason or decide to reward him with a contract extension if he has a good year.

Watkins' option is worth $13.2 million. The franchise tag for 2018 is expected to be at about $16 million.

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He has had surgeries on his hip and foot, missing 11 games in the past three seasons.

The Bills were actively targeting a wide receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft this weekend. The team eventually traded its 91st pick for the Los Angeles Rams' 149th choice in order to move up from No. 44 to No. 37 in the second round. It used the selection to pick East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones.

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The franchise also fired general manager Doug Whaley the day after the draft.

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According to the team's website, Jones is a candidate to start opposite Watkins.

The Bills also have Corey Brown, Andre Holmes, Brandon Tate, Walter Powell, Dezmin Lewis, Kolby Listenbee, Corey Washington, and Jeremy Butler at wide receiver.

Jones owns the FBS record with 399 career receptions.

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"I have natural instincts for the game," Jones told reporters after being drafted. "I have the best hands in this draft class. I'm a pass catcher, I can create separation and go score. Besides that, I'm a great teammate. I play for my team and I'm an all-around hard worker."

Phil McGeoghan, the Bills' current wide receivers coach, coached wide receivers at East Carolina last season.

Watkins, 23, was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He had a stellar rookie season with 982 yards and six touchdowns on 65 receptions. Since playing 16 games that season, he played 13 in 2015, and eight last season, due to multiple foot ailments. Watkins had 1,047 yards and nine scores on 60 receptions in 2015. He had 480 yards, two scores and 28 receptions in limited action last season.

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Last month, Bills coach Sean McDermott was non-committal when asked about Watkins' option.

"Sammy is a good player," McDermott told reporters. "He's in a good spot. He's attacking the rehab. We have to continue to evaluate."

Watkins produced despite playing with several NFL stars at Clemson. He lined up with DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Dwayne Allen and Andre Ellington, while catching passes from Tajh Boyd during his three years with the Tigers.

The Tigers also had NFL pass catchers in Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries and Mike Williams during Watkins' tenure.

Watkins had foot surgery in January and is expected to be ready for camp. He'll make $3.3 million this season.

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