It appears of the teams interested in helping Ben Watson unretire, one had a substantial lead on the others. Although the 38-year-old tight end was linked to the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers, he was only considering a return if two teams were in the mix.
“I was retired. I was done for a few months,” Watson said, via Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston. “Around I would say, late April, early May I started thinking about it and made myself available. There were really only two places I would consider playing, coming back (to the Patriots) and playing in New Orleans. Once I made myself available I got a call, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity.”
The Patriots and Saints were Watson’s two most prominent stops during his 15-season run, the former drafting him in the 2004 first round and deploying him for six seasons. The latter featured him frequently before and after the Jimmy Graham trade. New Orleans, though, was not in the mix for Watson. The Saints shelled out some cash to sign Jared Cook, who was coming off his most statistically productive season.
New England lost this generation’s best tight end, but Watson did not factor Rob Gronkowski‘s status into his decision. Though, it’s certainly debatable if the Pats would have been interested had Gronk not informed them he was retiring. That may have forced Watson to consider one of the aforementioned destinations.
“No, I was retired. I considered myself retired,” Watson said about viewing Gronkowski’s retirement as a reason to come back. “I was processing as such and moving forward as such until late in April. (Gronkowski’s exit) wasn’t a factor for me.”
Should the Patriots stand pat with Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end, their 2019 offense stands to look different than their other nine attacks this decade. Most of those, when Gronkowski was healthy, funneled through the future Hall of Famer. This year’s Pats feature bigger names or higher-end investments at receiver, with Demaryius Thomas (should he surmount the Achilles injury that ended his 2018 season) and N’Keal Harry now joining Julian Edelman.
Watson, 39 in December, signed for $3MM ($600K guaranteed). Seferian-Jenkins only received $895K and $50K guaranteed.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.