For the Bills, picking up the fifth-year option on wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ rookie contract would seem like an obvious decision: The Bills invested two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick in a draft-day trade for Watkins, and he has developed into a good player and is still only 23 years old. That’s not the kind of player you want leaving your team after just four years.
But according to Sal Capaccio of WGR 550, the Bills might not pick up Watkins’ option after all: The team is still deciding and may take a couple weeks before making a final decision.
Although Capaccio still thinks the Bills will pick up the option, it’s apparently not a sure thing because of Watkins’ history of injuries. Fifth-year options are guaranteed for injuries, meaning that if Watkins suffered an injury in 2017 so serious that he couldn’t play at all in 2018, the Bills would still be on the hook for Watkins’ 2018 salary of $13 million. If the Bills don’t pick up Watkins’ option and he gets hurt this season, they don’t owe him a penny in 2018.
Watkins missed half of last season with a foot injury and has had two surgeries on the foot, so it’s easy to understand why the injury risk is a concern for the Bills. Still, it will be a major surprise if Buffalo doesn’t lock Watkins up through 2018.