Bills gain flexibility in 2018 by declining Sammy Watkins' option

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Three years ago, the Bills gave up the ninth overall pick in the draft, another first-round pick, and a fourth-round pick to get receiver Sammy Watkins - at a time when they could have stayed put and gotten Odell Beckham Jr.

Officially, the Bills have declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Watkins' contract, which will now expire next March. Watkins got hurt initially in Week 2 last season and missed an eight-game stretch before returning in Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is capable of making big plays when healthy, and $8.5 million seems like a reasonable salary for a receiver of his caliber.

However, with a new regime in Buffalo, Watkins could be in line for a bounce-back year in 2017, especially if his health remains intact.

This means that Watkins, whom the Bills selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 National Football League draft, will become a free agent after the 2017 National Football League season concludes. His rookie contract expires after the 2017 season.

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Watkins is now not cleared to participate fully in the team's offseason conditioning program and is not expect to participate in the OTA practice sessions coming up in a couple of weeks.

Now that the Bills have declined to pick up Watkins' fifth-year option, does that mean that the Fort Myers, FL-native is already on his way out of Buffalo?

Watkins last sustained game action when he was 100 percent healthy came in the second half of the 2015 season.

McDermott said he had "good conversations" with Watkins in discussing the reasoning behind the decision. "We look forward to having a healthy Sammy Watkins on the field in 2017". He begins this season with 153 career receptions and 17 touchdowns to his name for the Bills. That's all possible, but the Bills now have the ability to walk away from Watkins if he underperforms or gets injured again. The tag would net the wideout more cash in one year than the fifth-year option.