The Kansas City Chiefs and wide receiver Sammy Watkins have agreed on a restructured one-year contract that gives the franchise much-needed salary cap relief, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Friday.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Chiefs do not disclose contract details, said Watkins will make $9 million in base salary but that incentives could drive the total package to $16 million. More important for the club, the deal will give the Chiefs about $5 million in salary cap savings ahead of the NFL draft.
Yahoo Sports was first to report the agreement between the Chiefs and Watkins.
Watkins was headed into the final year of a $48 million, three-year contract, and he was scheduled to make $13.7 million in base salary and count a prohibitive $21 million against the cap. That made him an immediate candidate to either restructure his contract or be released, and the Chiefs were able to make the numbers work to keep him in the fold.
That is especially important given the uncertainty of the league schedule because of the coronavirus. The Chiefs have been trying to keep the vast majority of their Super Bowl-winning roster intact under the assumption that most – if not all – of the off-season will be wiped out as the nation deals with the medical crisis. That would mean only a handful of players would be forced to learn their system in a compressed period before the start of the season.
"He's done a great job for us," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday, before news of the reworked deal leaked. "And as good a player he is, he's an even better person, so we've enjoyed having him here."
Before the deal with Watkins, the Chiefs had the lowest amount of money under the salary cap in the league. That meant they had to free up money just to ensure they could sign their draft class, which typically takes about $5 million.
They already had reworked part of defensive end Frank Clark's deal to save another $5 million against the salary cap.
The big knock on Watkins throughout his career has been his health, and he's missed plenty of games over two seasons in Kansas City. But he's also been an effective complement to wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce when he's been healthy, catching 92 passes for 1,192 yards and six touchdowns over the course of 24 games.
His value was never more apparent than during their Super Bowl run. Watkins caught two passes for 76 yards in the Chiefs' comeback win over Houston, had seven catches for 114 yards and a score in the AFC title game against Tennessee, then caught five passes for 98 yards as his team rallied in the fourth quarter to beat San Francisco for the title.