Truth and Lies: Sammy Watkins and the L.A. Rams

The Los Angeles Rams traded a second round pick and a promising cornerback for Sammy Watkins in August 2017. He was expected to be the focus of the Rams’ passing attack, but instead failed to reach 600 receiving yards. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on a three-year contract worth $84 million after the season. The Rams were left with the probability that they will receive a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2019.

A lot has been said about Watkins since the trade went down in August. He quickly became the most polarizing player on the Rams. We need to talk about him one last time. For this exercise, I’m taking statements that were either said or likely said by Rams faithful and decide whether it’s the truth or a lie.

The Rams shouldn’t have traded for Sammy Watkins

Lie. I wrote a piece during last offseason chronicling the Rams receiving woes since Torry Holt. They desperately needed a No. 1 option in the passing game. They haven’t had a guy like Watkins in a decade.

Defenses don’t have to respect the passing game when Chris Givens is the threat on the outside. Watkins demanded attention on the outside. He could burn a cornerback he caught slipping for a deep touchdown and proved that quite a few times during the season. Watkins drew attention away from the defense and allowed Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Todd Gurley to feast on the rest of the defense.

There’s no way the Rams are as good offensively last year if Watkins wasn’t there. He helped open up the offense. Is it a risk to give away a second round pick for a potential one-year rental of an injury prone receiver? When you haven’t had a winning record since 2003, it is a risk you need to take. I have no regrets over the Sammy Watkins era. He helped us win a division title. General manager Les Snead makes that trade again in a heartbeat.

Sammy Watkins was a disappointment in Los Angeles

Truth. You can argue how much he opened up the offense. You can argue that he tied for eighth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns. But you can’t argue that he lived up to expectations. For a guy as talented as Watkins to finish fourth on the team in receiving and not even reach 600 yards is disappointing. He didn’t have enough time to build chemistry with Jared Goff, and it showed on the field. The Bills traded him to Los Angeles and was surpassed by Robert Woods, after spending three years in Buffalo outshining Woods. It still blows my mind that Watkins caught only 39 passes in 15 games.

The money was too much to retain Sammy Watkins

Truth. I believe in his talent, but Watkins has been an overall disappointment in his NFL career. He was incredibly valuable for the Rams as a glorified decoy last season. But for $16 million a year, when you have to extend and pay more worthy players while also filling out the roster? Absolutely not. The Rams probably drove Watkins to the airport themselves after they heard what Kansas City was offering.

The Chiefs made Watkins the fourth highest paid receiver in the NFL. The Rams already made the mistake of overpaying Tavon Austin. They couldn’t overpay another receiver, even if he was a key part of the offense.

The Rams don’t need to replace Sammy Watkins. Next man up and we’re good.

Look, I love that we can get confident in our guys, and I’d love to be proven wrong on this one but…

Lie. Lie. LIE! I have seen so many people claiming that they’re excited to see what Josh Reynolds can do and that he’ll be fine taking over for Watkins in the offense. I’m excited for his future. He’s a nice prospect and down the line could be a top receiver on the Rams offense. But what did you see from Reynolds last season that makes you think he can slide in next to Woods and Kupp and demand respect from the defense?

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are great players, but they benefited greatly from Watkins drawing attention from the top opposing corners. The Rams have a long history of playing receivers a step above where they should be on a depth chart. Chris Givens wasn’t a No. 1 option. Kenny Britt wasn’t a No. 1 option. Danny Amendola wasn’t a No. 1 option. Woods is a tremendous two receiver and Kupp plays great out of the slot as the third guy. The unfortunate truth is that they have to be the top two options in the passing game this year. A No. 1 option isn’t sitting out there in free agency, but adding a legitimate outside threat will prevent this passing game from regression.

Say what you want about a player like now New York Jets receiver Terrelle Pryor, but he was much better suited to step into the Watkins role than Reynolds is. It’s not ideal for Robert Woods to be blanketed by elite cornerbacks week after week. Reynolds isn’t going to prevent that. I’ll be concerned about regression in the passing game until the Rams add another piece on the outside. We simply don’t have the right personnel to go with a next man up approach to this situation.

The Rams chose not to bring back Sammy Watkins because of his bizarre tweets.

This remains unclear. 

Steve Rebeiro is a staff writer and podcast host for Rams Talk. He is an alumni of Marquette University. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.

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