Well, what an offseason this has been. Trades are happening at an unforeseen rate, Jordan Howard might be getting shopped, Chicago Bears twitter has collectively fallen off a cliff in terms of sanity, and we haven’t even gotten to the date where teams can legally acquire players yet.
For now, though, the Bears have an extremely glaring need at receiver, as has been well documented by previous free agent profiles from this very site. What seems particularly missing, though, is a deep threat, which Matt Nagy’s offense calls for in spades as we saw with Tyreek Hill. The closest thing the Bears have to a bona fide deep threat currently on the roster is Markus Wheaton, who will likely be cut.
Jarvis Landry, while a very appetizing target, is not that. Sammy Watkins is. The former Bills and current Rams wideout brings adequate size for a wideout along with speed, route running, and possession ability that if all put together can make him an extremely dangerous weapon for quarterback Mitch Trubisky. I take a closer look at what Watkins can bring to the Bears in a profile for an available player who could upgrade the Bears’ roster.
When Watkins entered the 2014 NFL draft, he was thought to be one of the better (best?) receiver prospects of the better part of a decade. The Buffalo Bills thought highly enough of him to mortgage their future to move up and take him as a shiny new toy for quarterback EJ Manuel. Both the former and the latter were disappointing investments. Watkins, though he initially showed production in a thousand yard second season, was heavily limited enough in 2016 that Buffalo dealt him to Los Angeles for cornerback EJ Gaines and a second-round pick.
While his numbers are slightly lackluster for his 2017 season with the Rams, a lot of that can be attributed to getting used to an offense in which he didn’t spend much of training camp and the offseason program with. He ended up developing a nice rapport with Jared Goff, which as I touched on in describing Albert Wilson’s case for playing in Chicago, is a valuable skill for a team with a young quarterback.
What he also brings is a natural deep threat ability. Watkins’ best highlight of the season was magnificent over the shoulder catch in double coverage against San Francisco. He produced eight touchdowns in 2017 and has never had less than 15 yards per catch in a single season. For reference, Jarvis Landry’s career high is around 12. Watkins does have an injury history, unlike Landry, but if he can stay healthy he can be a valuable asset for a team like Chicago.
Most experts expect Watkins’ lack of production in 2017 to hold him to a mere $10 million or so per year if he hits the open market. It would look bad for Los Angeles if he does; they would have given up a decent corner and a high pick for a one-year rental. However, it looks more and more like it will happen. Many experts believe that if the Rams have to choose, and it looks like they will, between Watkins and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner as to who to franchise tag.
I’ll just cut right to the chase: if Watkins is available, the Bears should bring him into Halas Hall and not let him leave. Watkins is exactly what they need on offense, and if his price tag is as expected is incredibly affordable for a potential number one receiver. He fits Nagy’s scheme to a tee and will bring an element of size without sacrificing the speed that the new coach craves.
Jarvis Landry, while I wouldn’t be too broken up if they got him, should not be the Bears’ top target. Neither should Allen Robinson, to whom I would prefer even Landry. It should be Watkins. Ryan Pace has lots of cap space. He should use it to secure a top target.