Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is the centerpiece of a deal that brings experience and explosive-play ability to the Rams' offense. Here are three things to know about the newest target for quarterback Jared Goff.
1) No. 1 ability
There's a reason why Watkins was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and that's his potential to be a true top-flight wide receiver.
At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, he has the size. Running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine showed he has the speed. And his performance with the Bills has provided examples of production.
Watkins played 29 games over his first two seasons, and in that time averaged 62 receptions for 1,014 yards with eight touchdowns in each year. While he missed three games due to injury in 2015, Watkins still had an outstanding year, making 60 receptions for 1,047 yards with nine touchdowns.
Displaying his big-play capability, Watkins finished No. 3 with seven receptions of at least 40 yards, and he had 18 receptions of at least 20 yards. He also ended the year No. 6 in yards per reception at 17.5.
Those are explosive numbers — the kind that would bring some much-needed juice to the Rams' offense.
2) How's his health?
Watkins missed eight games in 2016 due to a foot injury. While he initially had surgery on the foot in the spring of that year, he hadn't quite fully recovered and went on injured reserve early in the season. The Bills designated him to return, and he came off the list for their last six games. But Watkins' production was not at the level it had been for his first two seasons.
The wide receiver then elected to have another surgery during the offseason in order to correct the problem. And through a couple weeks of training camp and his first preseason game, Watkins is beginning to look like himself again.
In Thursday's preseason matchup against the Vikings, Watkins caught four passes for 39 yards on five targets. The Bills targeted Watkins on their first three offensive plays, and the wide receiver caught all three passes.
"This was the best I've ever felt," Watkins said following Thursday’s game, via NYup.com. "Practice was grinding. Today, I was free. I was just out there running my routes, having fun, just looking to get the ball. I wasn't pressing or anything. I was just trying to score honestly."
3) Contract year
While Watkins is a former first-round pick in the 2014 draft, the Bills elected to decline his fifth-year option. This means the wideout is now in a contract year and is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March, as he enters his first season in L.A.
In addition to cornerback E.J. Gaines, the Rams surrendered a 2018 second-round pick to acquire Watkins — significant draft capital. Still, it will be incumbent on the team and player to find a solution that works for both sides if there is to be a long-term deal.
If there's one recent comparison for this situation with the Rams, it would be linebacker Mark Barron — though the situations are not exactly parallel. The club acquired the Buccaneers' 2012 first-round pick through a midseason trade in 2014. The Rams declined his fifth-year option, but then reached an agreement on a five-year contract early in the free agency period last March.