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Watkins fine with less money, output to stay in KC

Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins, left, races past San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman to haul in a pass from Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV. The play helped the Chiefs score the go-ahead touchdown on the way to a 31-20 victory.

Part I: Sammy Watkins would like to be bigger component of the Chiefs' offense. He thought he would be when he signed a $48 million deal in 2018.

Part II: Sammy Watkins is happy in Kansas City. Wanted to come back this year. Even took less money to do it.

Both parts can be true.

Both are true, he emphasized Sunday, his first meeting with media since agreeing to restructure his contract to stay in Kansas City.

"I think every receiver or any player wants to go out there and do well and score touchdowns or catch as many balls as you possibly can and get the yards. Myself, I want those types of things," Watkins said in a Zoom call. "Now, do I have to be mad or angry at the guys who are going out there and getting it? No. I love my guys. I love to see guys go out there balling. It's my job and my duty to serve others as well as they serve me.

"As a receiver, yeah, of course, I want more balls and would love to have more balls. But that's not my focus. My focus is getting the win and going out there and having fun."

During much of his 9-minute call, Watkins reiterated this stance many times over, a necessary rehearsal after he expressed _ or demanded _ a larger role during an offseason interview with Bleacher Report. He shrugged off that article: "I'm a deep thinker."

Watkins caught 52 passes for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. All three scores came in the opener. He was shut out over the remainder of the regular season.

Only Watkins can truly assess how he handled the dip in production. His most recent words suggest he's accepted it.

And his actions.

The offseason offered him an out. Set to count $21 million against the cap this year, Watkins could not squeeze into the Chiefs' plans without an adjustment. He could have simply waited on his release, been paid by the Chiefs anyway and then signed with another team to make even more. At only 27, it's likely he could have found another long-term payday.

Instead, he's back in Kansas City on a one-year deal that will pay him $9 million, with the opportunity for incentives to drive up the price.

"I think I've made enough money," Watkins said. "I mean ... I love more money, but as far as being smart and educated on this team, knowing that you gotta pay Pat (Mahomes), you gotta pay Chris (Jones), you got a lot of guys you gotta pay. For me to take a contract like I did was a blessing.

"Really just showing the world it's not all about money. This is my happy place. Why not take a smaller contract and come out and play with the guys I've been playing with?"

He opted for contentment over change — all the while knowing that, quite frankly, it might not include a larger role than 2019. The Chiefs still have Tyreek Hill. They still have Travis Kelce. And second-year receiver Mecole Hardman might step into a wider spotlight.

"It was extremely important" to get Watkins back, quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "To have someone of his caliber who really goes out there and plays well every single week. He does so many things well — obviously he catches the ball well; he scores for us; he makes a lot of plays after contact.

"But also as far as blocking or running the routes hard and getting the other guys open. In this offense, it takes every single person. And I think you saw that when in the playoffs and his number got called, he made big plays happen. It's a guy we love having back."

Watkins caught 14 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown in three postseason games. Beating Richard Sherman down the sideline will remain one of the key plays of the Super Bowl comeback — and his top career memory, he said.

It's a sign of possibilities, though not guarantees. Teams will continue to bracket Kelce. They'll continue to shade a safety toward Hill.

That leaves opportunity.

"I'm a big Sammy Watkins fan. I think he's a heck of a football player and really helps us make this thing go offensively," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "I don't worry about all that — I'd hope he wants the ball more. That's what great players want. That doesn't bother me that he said that. I'm glad he's back here. He'll have opportunities for sure."