Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has had a lot on his plate since he took over for Rex Ryan at the beginning of this offseason. One unresolved free agency issue could end up having a major impact on Buffalo’s success with the passing game moving forward and that’s whether or not the team should exercise wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ $13 million fifth-year option for 2018.

Buffalo picked up Watkins with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft following a stellar career at Clemson University. Watkins shined in his rookie season while starting all 16 games and finishing the year with 65 receptions for 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He followed that up with the first 1,000+ yard season of his career and nine touchdowns in 2015.

Watkins’s third season with the Bills got off to a rocky start and he was unable to right the ship due to injuries. After undergoing foot surgery just before the start of training camp in 2016, the lingering effects of the operation limited his time and production all year. He started eight games last season and registered 28 receptions for 430 yards and a touchdown.

Buffalo’s passing game clearly struggled with Watkins on the sideline for half of the season. Granted a quality passing offense was severely lacking under Ryan’s regime, quarterback Tyrod Taylor was still hard-pressed to find any big-play ability from his wide receiver corps in 2016 as Taylor and Co. finished 30th in the league with 189.5 yards per game.

If Buffalo does decide to pick up Watkins’ contract option in 2018, they would be paying him more than double what he will earn in 2017. Injury susceptibility should obviously play a role when deciding a player’s future with a team, but Watkins’ capabilities when healthy are just too much to slip away. Buffalo has until May 2 to make their decision.

Stay tuned to End Zone Score for more on Buffalo’s offseason.

Justin Caba is a staff writer covering the New York Jets and other AFC East news for EndZoneScore.com. Contact him via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @JustinCaba40

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