Sammy Watkins is proof of Ravens’ failed WR experiment

Sammy Watkins #14 of the Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Sammy Watkins #14 of the Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens made a low-risk, low-reward bet on Sammy Watkins last season and lost. Now it’s time to move on.

Many years removed from his 1,000-yard receiving season on the Buffalo Bills, Watkins landed in Baltimore in 2021 with a clear objective: provide a mostly reliable veteran presence in the Ravens’ wide receiver room.

The hope was that Watkins would churn out numbers comparable to what he produced during his first two seasons in Kansas City, but he ended up recording 27 catches on 49 targets for 394 yards and one touchdown, all career-lows.

His short tenure as a Raven now over, Watkins heads to Green Bay on a one-year, $4 million dollar deal, joining his fifth NFL team in nine years.

There is little to mourn in his departure, as the team likely saw this one coming. The Ravens took a calculated gamble on Watkins, and it didn’t pay off — not much was gained by signing Watkins, so not much was lost by letting him go, either.

Baltimore Ravens continue to cut their losses this offseason, part ways with veteran wideout Sammy Watkins

Watkins joins DeShon Elliott as the two most recent Ravens players to find new homes in 2022, and usually a mass exodus of free agents isn’t a good sign for a team. Baltimore made the smart move by moving on from Watkins, though, and the team can find a better upgrade in the remaining pool of free agents or in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Green Bay may think they’ve acquired a suitable albeit less speedy replacement for Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and in truth, Watkins has many valuable attributes including his YAC ability and football IQ.

His ceiling nonetheless is firmly capped based on his age and injury history.

Watkins could have been a productive veteran option for the Ravens last year, but he just couldn’t stay on the field. The 28-year-old burst out of the gate with 18 catches for 292 yards in his first five games, including a clutch fourth-down conversion in Baltimore’s narrow victory over the Detroit Lions.

After hurting his hamstring mid-season, his production fell off a cliff, and every ounce of Watkin’s potential disappeared.

What’s next for Baltimore? Finding Watkin’s replacement ranks arguably in the middle of the Ravens’ offseason priority list, somewhere between finding a starting corner and adding depth at tight end.

With Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman serving as two very capable wide receivers for 2022, the Ravens may opt to try the veteran wideout experiment again, perhaps on a free agent like Will Fuller or Cole Beasley. More seasoned options (Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones) are still available, but the team would have to create much more cap space to bring those players on.

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Looking back, Sammy Watkins could be considered a disappointment for the Ravens, but he was a disappointment the team half-expected given Watkins’ injury history. Whoever takes his place in the starting lineup in 2022 has only fairly small shoes to fill.