The trade that brought receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams was more than three months in the making.
In an interview that will be included within Thursday’s PFT Live, Rams G.M. Les Snead explained how the team first became interested in Watkins.
“I think he landed on the radar screen when the Bills’ organization didn’t put the fifth-year option on him back in the spring,” Snead said. “At that point you can sense, OK, maybe they’re not satisfied. Maybe there’s a question mark or two because they didn’t do the fifth-year option. So to be honest with you, I probably made the first call within that week. From there it probably was a summer’s worth of calls to try to get this thing done. It was finally consummated on Friday.”
The discussions continued until last week, with talks at the “98-percent range” as the preseason opener for the Bills approached. But it still wasn’t done until after Buffalo’s preseason opener.
“I believe probably the night before their game we had discussed that, ‘Hey, if something gets done, it’ll be first thing in the morning after their game,'” Snead said. “I remember we had the Bills game up on the iPhone app or something watching the first quarter. Of course we got to see Sammy make those four catches. So two things go through your mind. Number one is, look, it’s good to see Sammy playing and healthy. Number two is, hey, he just had a relatively decently big game so this thing may or may not get done.”
But the Bills still went through with it, and while the deal was pending Snead didn’t know that the Bills were also talking about a trade with the Eagles. (The Eagles also didn’t know the Bills were talking about a trade with the Rams.)
Snead made it clear that the interest in Watkins traces directly to the offensive preferences of the team’s new head coach.
“I think it all started really with the hiring of Sean McVay and he’s got a system, he’s got an offensive philosophy,” Snead said. “He tries to keep it simple but at the end of the day he likes to attack people in the passing game and he likes to do it with the running back, the tight ends, and all the different genres and flavors of wide receivers. And the one flavor after free agency, after the draft, was the flavor we were really missing was going to be somebody that is going to threaten you down the field which would then open up, let’s call it the intermediate, the short, and even the running game lanes that we haven’t had in the last couple years. So we felt like that was a missing piece that we needed. It was a perfect complement for what we added and we’re gonna go from there.”
Basically, then, Watkins will be the DeSean Jackson in McVay’s offense with the Rams. If they can get Watkins up to speed.
“‘[I]t seems like baseball trades are slightly easier to fit someone in,” Snead said. “If you trade for a pitcher he comes right in and starts the next few days. Where in football there is a system. It’s very systematic. And bringing in Sammy at this point in time is probably the toughest time to bring him in because Sean and his staff have installed the entire offense now twice. So we’re at this stage over these next two weeks in preseason where it’s probably the hardest on the players because every play in the playbook is open game.”
For Watkins, the playbook is still a new challenge to be digested and conquered. And he’s trying to get comfortable with new coaches and teammates. And he’s in a contract year. Which means that a lot need to get accomplished, in not very much time.