Wide receiver Sammy Watkins became the fourth top-10 NFL draft pick to sign a contract this month, after agreeing to a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.
The contract is worth an average of $5 million a year. It’s worth a total value of $19.9 million, according to a league source. Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the draft, will get a signing bonus of about $12 million. The top rookie deals are fully guaranteed in the NFL.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Watkins said after the Bills’ first spring practice. “For me it’s to come here and perform, get the playbook down and get bonded with the quarterback and the offense. At the end of the day it’s a blessing. I’ve got to move forward and perform now.”
The Bills moved up five spots in the first round in a trade with the Cleveland Browns to take Watkins, the receiving star from Clemson University. A 6-foot-1, 211-pounder, Watkins owns 23 Clemson records, including career receptions (240), receiving yards (3,391) and touchdowns (27). Last season he caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The parameters for rookie deals are tightly structured under the terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which makes their negotiation much easier to complete.
Eleven first-round picks have signed.
Last week No. 5 overall pick Khalil Mack signed with Oakland for four years and $18.67 million. This year’s first-round deals are running just a fraction higher than last year’s. The fourth pick last year, Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson, signed for $19.8 million.
Watkins will miss the next two practices this week because he’s required to attend the 20th annual NFL Players Association Rookie Premiere, hosted by NFL Players Inc., the marketing and licensing arm of the NFLPA.
Forty of the top rookies will gather the next three days in Los Angeles and meet with NFLPA corporate partners.
On Saturday, the rookies will go to Los Angeles and don their official team uniforms for the first time for a trading card photo shoots with Topps and Panini.
Watkins admitted he wouldn’t mind staying with his teammates, but he does not have a choice in the matter.
“I would rather stay here and get the connection with the quarterback,” Watkins said. “I don’t want to fall behind. It’s a long season. I need to be prepared to be ready for the first game. It’s kinda sad I have to leave for three or four days. ... I have to go to the rookie premiere and study the plays and get some running and training a little bit and not get too far behind.”
The Bills played loud, popular music during long stretches of their two-hour practice. It was a new development. Last year they played loud music during weeks in which they had road games, but not during the spring. Super Bowl champion Seattle got a lot of publicity for cranking up music as a way to get players hyped up for practice last season.
Among the tunes played were: “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas, “Sex Machine” and “I Feel Good,” by James Brown, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. There were more current country and hip-hop tunes in the mix, too.
Coach Doug Marrone said he picked all the songs.
“I like it. I like it, it was my playlist,” Marrone said. “The more you think about it, the more you look at it and say that it keeps practice going. Make sure you concentrate on it. Anyone that has complaints can all come to me, because it’s actually my playlist. ... It will always be my playlist, so if you have any complaints from the players, media, administration, it’s my fault.”
“I think he mixed it up,” said defensive tackle Kyle Williams. “I think he did a good job. I think he kept everybody happy.”