Sammy Watkins was a college phenomenon as a receiver in college at Clemson and was heavily pursued by many teams prior to his draft in 2014. When he landed with the Bills, he made a big difference with the team and earned a huge contract without even finishing his senior season.
Since then, Watkins has won a Super Bowl and played with multiple other teams. These changes have given him a substantial net worth and also highlight how confusing NFL salaries can be for many people. Understanding Sammy Watkins net worth is a good lesson in NFL salary design.
Sammy Watkins Net Worth Value
When Sammy Watkins was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2014, he signed to a $19.9 million deal with a signing bonus of $12.8 million and a salary of $420,000 for the year. Watkins stayed with the team for three years before being traded to the Rams and then the Chiefs, with whom he won a Super Bowl Championship. As of 2022, his estimated value is about $11-14 million.
Watkins' career has been a primary example of how unpredictable the NFL can be for many players. When Watkins happily signed with the Bills (his favorite team growing up), he was expected to take the league by storm.
His stats with Clemson were wild, including 3,391 total yards in three years with 27 total touchdowns and 240 receptions with a yardage average of 14.1 per catch. Watkins also proved to be a skilled rusher in college and earned 339 yards on 52 rushes.
His Bills Seasons
With the Bills, Watkins earned a rookie record by catching 65 passes and earning 982 yards. He also broke records by catching six touchdown passes. Bills fans were excited by this dynamic player but were disappointed when Watkins made just seven catches for 99 yards in three games to start the season. Watkins was injured that season and didn't have the same dynamic year he did in his rookie season.
His 2016 season was also shortened because he needed a screw inserted in his foot after breaking a bone in his foot. He stayed on injured reserve for most of the season and only had 28 receptions for 430 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Bills didn't take his fifth-year option in 2017 and decided to let him go into free agency and he was traded to the Rams the same year.
Watkins was buried deep in a fairly active Rams offense that included multiple shifting receivers. However, he was able to catch 39 balls for 593 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he was traded away to the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he signed a three-year deal in 2018. Watkins was key to that team's success during this period, including catching several important balls in playoff games.
Playing With The Chiefs
His $48 million three-year contract with the Chiefs included a 2020 Super Bowl win against the 49ers. However, the team decided to off-set his costly salary by letting him go in free agency in 2020. Watkins then played on a one-year contract with the Ravens for $6 million. He had a strong game to start the season, but was injured for several weeks.
Watkins then signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Green Bay Packers in 2022. Unfortunately, his arrival coincided with quarterback Aaron Rodgers' worst season of his career and Watkins rarely received attention. His fate after the 2022 season is uncertain. However, he has earned a good income as a reliable yardage producer.
How NFL Salaries Work
NFL salaries can be incredibly confusing to understand, especially in Watkins' case. He signed a $19 million contract and a $48 million contract, but it is only worth $11-14 million. This confusion occurs because NFL players often get the most money in bonuses. His $19 million salary with the Bills was made up of $12 million in various bonuses, many of which Watkins didn't earn.
The same is true of his current salary in Green Bay. While it is worth $4 million on paper, he only earns a $1.12 million guaranteed salary. Much of the rest of his salary includes a $350,000 signing bonus. Along with that are $350,000 in other bonuses, and a $50,000 workout bonus. However, Watkins is also worth $1.7 million in cap hit and $400,000 in dead cap value.
What are Cap Hit and Dead Cap?
Cap hit and dead cap can be confusing without some explanation. Cap hit indicates how much a player takes up on a team's salary cap. The cap is the maximum value they're allowed to pay. Players with a high cap hit typically have to produce well to stay with a team. Dead cap refers to how much a player earns from contracts signed with other teams that he no longer plays on.
As a result, Watkins is earning $400,000 per year from either the Chiefs or the Bills. The team has to pay the guaranteed salary that they agreed to pay to the player when signing them. Such dead cap hits are not uncommon in the NFL. Many teams prefer paying them simply to get rid of a player's heavy contract costs.
For example, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has the current highest dead cap value of $40.525 million, meaning that the Falcons owe him that much money even though he no longer plays for them. This move still made sense for the Falcons because it opened up salary cap room. It actually took $8 million off their salary to simply let Ryan walk.
What Does He Make Currently?
Including his guaranteed salary, bonuses, and sponsorships, Watkins is going to pull in at least $2-3 million with the Packers in 2020. Whether he'll make his full $4 million is up for debate. The Packers have struggled and Watkins has not earned some of his performance bonuses. His future with the team is also questionable, because his production with the team hasn't been significant.
Watkins Future Earning Potential
While Watkins hasn't quite been the explosive player he was in his first season with Buffalo, his seasons with the Chiefs showed that he could be a good second or third option for an intelligent offense. Hisis earnings aren't likely to be as high as his early contract predicted. However, he likely still has a future in the NFL.
For example, Watkins could find a place on a struggling team that needs a quick and capable receiver. He might end up picking up a lot of one-year contracts because he is nearing retirement age for NFL receivers. Regardless, his net worth could increase over the next few years if his play stays strong.
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Written by Allen Lee
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