Bills decline to pick up 5th-year option on Watkins contract

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The Buffalo Bills made a controversial decision Tuesday when they officially decided not to pick up wide receiver Sammy Watkins' fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

Watkins' struggle to stay healthy the past two seasons caused the Bills to waffle on the injury guaranteed fifth-year option. His appeal to clubs will likely have a lot to do with how his surgically-repaired foot holds up this year, as he has missed 11 games over his last last two campaigns because of it.

"Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision", Bills coach Sean McDermott said in a statement. "We look forward to having a healthy Sammy on the field in 2017".

It was Whaley who took a calculated risk in trading up to select the Clemson star with the fourth pick in the 2014 draft. That means Watkins will become a free agent after this fall, unless he and the Bills agree to an extension.

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He led FSU with 16.5 sacks last season playing defensive end, but some teams consider him a "tweener" who also could play inside. He says Cook told him he'd leave troubles, bad crowd in the past.

However, if Watkins does return to his 2015 form and becomes a unsafe receiving threat once again, Buffalo could sign him to a multi-year deal.

Through three seasons, Watkins has fewer than 2,500 receiving yards, 153 catches, and 17 touchdowns. The tag would net the wideout more cash in one year than the fifth-year option. McDermott would not say that Jones will win a starting job right away, but the thinking is that he can be a good complement to Watkins (if healthy) next season and possible insurance if Watkins walks in free agency in 2018. Players don't like the franchise tag, and Watkins could view the Bills' decision to decline the option as a lack of faith.

Watkins went on to set franchise rookie records with 65 catches for 982 yards during his first season in the National Football League, and also scored six touchdowns. During last year's injury-ravaged season, Watkins managed just 28 catches for 430 yards and two scores. He is coming off another foot surgery this offseason. On the other hand, if the receiver gets injured again, the Bills avoided a $13 million problem.