A few hours before the deadline for the usage of the franchise tag, the Los Angeles Rams made the decision to place the designation onto safety Lamarcus Joyner. This move has subsequently put veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the fast track to hit the free agent market for the first time in his career.
Regardless, he still remains at the top of the list for Los Angeles this offseason as a significant piece of the puzzle in the passing game. According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, Watkins has voiced that he is open to making a return to the Rams but understands that there will be an active market for his services in free agency:
WR Sammy Watkins is open to returning to the LA #Rams but also anticipates a very strong market, a source said. We will see what happens.
— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 6, 2018
Watkins hauled in 39 catches on 70 targets for 593 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his first campaign with Los Angeles. He recorded more than 50 receiving yards on four occasions while registering a touchdown seven times. Watkins had just one 100-yard performance this season after registering six catches on seven targets for 106 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 21.
The 24-year-old experienced a significant drop in his production last season. However, he showed plenty of potential to be a dependable No.1 receiving option in an offense. More importantly, he demonstrated that he was able to move past his checkered injury past by playing in 15 games with his only absence coming in the season finale due to the Rams resting players ahead of the playoffs.
Alongside former Pro Bowl wideout Allen Robinson, Watkins will be one of the top players at his position. He should be in line to draw interest from several teams that could drive up the price tag on his potential deal. That said, the Rams have a few days before the start of the free agency period to possibly ink Watkins to a new contract.