Benjamin Watson‘s Thursday visit with the Patriots will lead to a reunion. Ending a brief retirement, Watson plans to sign with the defending Super Bowl champions, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This will be a one-year, $3MM deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).
Watson signed the contract, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
The Patriots drafted the tight end in the first round of the 2004 draft and look set to turn to him as one of their post-Rob Gronkowski solutions. This will be quite the interesting reunion, considering Watson is nine years older than Gronkowski and preceded the future Hall of Famer in intentions to retire less than six months ago.
Word surfaced shortly before the draft that Watson was not set on leaving the game behind, and Gronk’s retirement naturally made New England a logical destination. Watson also had the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers on his radar (after the Saints signed Jared Cook) and will join Austin Seferian-Jenkins as key components of the Pats’ tight end corps.
He spent six years with the Pats, leaving after the 2009 season to sign with the Browns. Watson has since played for the Ravens and enjoyed multiple Saints stints. A month after Watson initially left New England, the Pats added Gronk and reshaped their dynasty. Now as they look to further prolong it, they will turn to a 38-year-old veteran.
Only a few tight ends, including Antonio Gates last season, have played past their 38th birthdays. No pure tight end, discounting long snappers, has suited up past his 39th. Watson turns 39 in December. Only Watson and Larry Fitzgerald remain in the league as skill-position players from the ’04 draft.
Watson finished last season with 35 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns. While he will not be mistaken for Gronkowski, the former Super Bowl winner has obviously displayed remarkable staying power and stands to team with ASJ to help out in filling the void Gronk’s retirement created. A former No. 32 overall pick, Watson caught six of Tom Brady‘s 50 touchdown passes in 2007 and, amazingly, will be called upon to help in the quarterback’s age-42 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.