KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For all of his size, speed and receiving ability, Sammy Watkins is still waiting for his first monster receiving season. Between injuries, changing teams and other factors, he’s been on the brink but never quite there.
That’s something Watkins acknowledged Thursday after signing as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs. He said he joined the Chiefs in part because he feels he can best reach his potential playing in an offense coached by Andy Reid and quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes II.
“I just feel like I have more in my tank,’’ Watkins said. “I feel like I can get a head start and be my best version of myself.’’
Watkins will have to share the ball in Kansas City, which already had a strong collection of skill players in tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt. But if he stays healthy, Watkins has a shot to beat his career bests.
In his four NFL seasons, Watkins’ high in catches is 65, set in 2014 when he was a rookie with the Buffalo Bills. He had 1,047 receiving yards for the Bills the next season, and his career high for touchdowns, nine, also happened in 2015.
One reason Watkins feels he can improve, he said, is the presence of Mahomes. The Chiefs traded up last year in the first round to get Mahomes and believe he can be the franchise type of quarterback they’ve lacked for years.
“I’m a young guy,’’ Watkins said. “I’m only 24 years old. I just feel like me and him can get better together. We can grow together. All the guys we have on this team, we can grow. It’s a young team.
“I just know he’s a great player. He didn’t go in the first round for no reason.’’
Watkins will join the Chiefs for the start of their offseason program when it begins next month. Offseason practice begins in May.
Watkins last year was traded from the Bills to the Los Angeles Rams shortly before the start of the regular season. He said getting such a late start with his new team set him back.
Watkins caught only 39 passes, but for a healthy 15.2 yards per catch average and eight touchdowns.
“Sammy went to L.A. and helped them achieve great things in that offense, and keep in mind that he got there like a week before the season started,’’ Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “There’s a lot of dialogue, a lot of verbiage, a lot of intricacies of an offense that you throw someone out there it’s hard. Yet he was still able to go out there, produce and do some great things.
“Imagine him coming here and we have the whole offseason and he can just absorb everything and go out there and play fast. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think the sky’s the limit with this and that’s the way we kind of viewed it.”
The Chiefs clearly won’t be content if Watkins doesn’t set career bests during the life of his three-year contract. They’re gambling that he’ll reach his potential in Kansas City.
“It’s just hard to acquire these guys,’’ Veach said of the 6-foot-1 Watkins, who also has big-play speed. “We’re sitting in free agency and you see a 24-year-old elite playmaker -- you don’t get those opportunities a lot, and with what we have and where we’re going, we may not get this chance again. We expect to win and we’re going to be picking at the bottom of [draft]. ... We’ve got one chance to go get him, so let’s make it happen.’’