Why Christian Watson's Packers future could be in jeopardy sooner than we think

Green Bay Packers
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson now has two seasons as a pro under his belt, and his 2023 campaign did not nearly live up to expectations.

As a rookie, Watson caught fire in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys, where he tallied four receptions for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Watson stayed hot for much of the 2022 season, finishing the year with over 500 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in an eight-game span to end the season.

Coming into 2023, it was a common expectation that Watson would be the team's leading receiver going forward. However, in a season derailed by injuries and a lack of production, Watson could not carve out a consistent role on the field.

With receivers such as Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks, Jayden Reed, and even Bo Melton all producing at a high level down the stretch, the Packers' plan for their talented 6-foot-4 deep threat remains to be seen.

Christian Watson's role with Packers in 2024

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Watson's roster spot should be safe in 2024. Despite being outperformed by four receivers in 2023, Watson can be electric on the field.

In big games such as the battle with the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and the tilt with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, Watson had shown up when the Packers needed him the most. In those two games, he caught 12 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

It is not a question of whether Watson has the talent to be a top receiver but whether he can consistently harness that talent. With 422 receiving yards in 2023, Watson's once prominent role has dwindled to the point where the Packers hardly skip a beat when he is inactive with an injury.

The 2024 season has to be a year for Watson to step into his role on this Packers team. Watson remains a deep threat that defenses always have to prepare for, but in a receiving room that is only getting better, Watson cannot find himself falling behind any further.

In January, the Packers scheduled an appointment with a hamstring specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he hopes to resolve lingering injury issues. Watson's immediate roster spot is not on the line. However, one more season tarnished with injuries could be enough for the Packers to move in a different direction.

Could the Packers release Christian Watson?

Christian Watson signed a four-year, $9.24 million rookie contract when he entered the league in 2022. With just over $6 million of guaranteed money, the Packers would not save much by releasing the deep threat.

With just two years left on this deal, it seems more effective for the Packers to finish rather than terminate it. Watson's talent is undeniable, and his combination of size and speed is matched by none. Right now, it is a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Packers regarding Watson, and his rookie success is enough evidence that Green Bay has a potential superstar on their hands if he can stay on the field.

Could the Packers trade Christian Watson?

If another season goes by where Watson is in and out of the lineup and can't seem to put it all together consistently, there is no reason the Packers would not look to find a trade partner.

Given what he has to offer on the field, another team would likely be willing to give Watson a shot in a new system. In a receiver room as deep as the Packers', there is no reason to waste Watson's talent on the bench when his abilities could be utilized elsewhere. The Packers are also a team that is always fond of gaining extra draft picks, which trading Watson would bring in.

Predicting the compensation the Packers would receive for a player of Watson's caliber is difficult. Trading him this offseason with two years remaining on his contract would be more intriguing to an NFL general manager than dealing Watson in his final year, so the level of draft picks Green Bay would receive in return would change considerably depending on the timing of the trade.

In 2022, the Pittsburgh Steelers dealt struggling wide receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears at the trade deadline for a second-round pick. Claypool had two years remaining on his rookie deal at the time. Watson and the Packers could be approaching similar territory to Claypool and the Steelers, where acquiring a second-round pick at the trade deadline is too good to pass up.

Trading Watson in the final year of his deal may only draw a mid-to-late-round pick, and this would be a tough pill to swallow for a Packers team that loves to take advantage of their draft picks. It is safe to say that trading Watson is not out of the question, and depending on Watson's level of play, the Packers may have to consider it in the future.

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