Bills choose to decline Sammy Watkins’ fifth-year contract option

The Buffalo Bills have chosen to decline Sammy Watkins‘ fifth-year contract option for 2018, the team announced Tuesday.

Buffalo was required to make the decision on Watkins before Wednesday. Had the team exercised his option, Watkins would have been scheduled to earn $13.258 million in 2018. That amount would have been guaranteed only for injury until next March, when it would have become fully guaranteed.

“Sammy and I have had good conversations about this decision,” coach Sean McDermott said. “There is no question that Sammy is a very good football player and has worked very hard during his rehab this offseason. We look forward to seeing a healthy Sammy Watkins on the field in 2017.”

Watkins, the fourth-overall selection in the 2014 draft, will now enter the final season of his four-year rookie deal. He will count $6.34 million against the Bills’ salary cap this season and is scheduled for unrestricted free agency next spring.

Watkins, 23, missed eight games last season because of lingering soreness from a broken left foot that required surgery last offseason. Watkins underwent a second surgery on his foot in January and is expected to be ready for training camp.

In addition to his foot injury, Watkins missed three games with shin and ankle injuries in 2015. He underwent hip surgery during the 2015 offseason and was also limited by broken ribs as a rookie in 2014.

The Bills traded up in the second round of last week’s draft to select East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones, but McDermott said that move was not expected to affect the decision about Watkins’ contract option.

In 37 career games over three seasons, Watkins has 153 catches for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns. His best season came in 2015, when he caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games.

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