Benjamin Watson

Contract Details: Mathieu, Pamphile, Watson, Weeden

Some details on recent free agent deals (all links via Twitter):

NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero also has signing bonus/guarantee details on players who signed one-year deals: TE Levine Toilolo $400K (Lions), LB Pernell McPhee $350K (Redskins), QB Brandon Weeden $90K (Texans), CB Leon Hall $45K (Raiders).

Saints Sign TE Benjamin Watson

Tight end Ben Watson agreed to a one-year deal with the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This marks a return for Watson, who spent 2013-2015 with New Orleans. 

The Saints tried to facilitate a more ambitious tight end reunion this offseason by pursuing Seahawks free agent Jimmy Graham. That didn’t pan out, but they have managed to add experience at the position at a cheaper rate by signing Watson.

Watson had 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games with the Ravens last season, demonstrating that he’s still productive, even in his old age. The veteran turned 37 in December.

Watson’s 2015 season with the Saints was the best of his long career. In that campaign, he set career-highs in receptions (74), yards (825), and touchdowns (six) while catching passes from Drew Brees.

The 2004 draft product will now compete with Coby Fleener for the starting role and he may have the edge after Fleener managed just 22 catches last season. Josh HillMichael Hoomanawanui, and Garrett Grayson fill out the club’s tight end depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Host TE Benjamin Watson

The Saints hosted free agent tight end Benjamin Watson on Tuesday, reports Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As of last week, Watson was reportedly discussing a deal with the Chiefs, but the veteran pass-catcher is now taking visits elsewhere, leaving the status of his talks with Kansas City unclear.

Watson should be extremely familiar to the New Orleans staff, as the 37-year-old played for the club from 2013-15. That 2015 season marked the most successful campaign of Watson’s lengthy NFL career, as he set career-highs in receptions (74), yards (825), and touchdowns (six) while catching passes from Drew Brees. Watson inked a two-year deal with the Ravens the following spring, and after a torn Achilles sidelined him for the 2016 season, Watson bounced back with a 61/522/4 line last year.

The Saints have yet to address their tight end group this offseason, although it’s a unit that could use improvements. Starter Coby Fleener managed only 22 catches a year ago but will almost certainly make New Orleans’ roster following the guarantee of his 2018 base salary, while the rest of the club’s depth chart — which includes Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Garrett Grayson — doesn’t offer much upside. Saints head coach Sean Payton called reinforcing tight end a “must,” tweets Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, so additions could be made via the draft if Watson or another free agent isn’t signed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs, TE Benjamin Watson Discussing Deal

The Chiefs are working on a deal with veteran tight end Benjamin Watson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Watson was said to be considering retirement as recently as last week, but he is apparently ready to come back for another season. 

Watson missed the entire 2016 season due to a torn Achilles, but bounced back in 2017 as he had 61 receptions for 522 yards and four touchdowns. The 37-year-old probably can’t be relied upon as a No.1 tight end at this stage of his career, but he’s make a fine backup to Travis Kelce and give defenses a lot to think about in a two tight end set.

In other Chiefs news, Kansas City has landed former Cardinals defensive lineman Xavier Williams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Brees, Watson, Contracts

With less than 24 hours until the exclusive negotiating window closes, the Saints and Drew Brees still haven’t come to an agreement on a new deal, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (via Twitter). If a contract isn’t agreed to by noon eastern time tomorrow, rival teams can make their pitch to the veteran quarterback.

Brees contract officially voids on Wednesday, although the 39-year-old will be allowed to negotiate with teams starting on Monday. If the Saints don’t come to an agreement with Brees before the start of free agency on Wednesday, they’ll have to tolerate $18MM in dead money against their cap. For what it’s worth, we heard in January that the veteran wasn’t planning on testing the market.

The 11-time Pro Bowler had another standout campaign in 2017, completing a career-high 72-percent of his passes for 4,334 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • Veteran tight end Ben Watson is contemplating retirement, reports CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). However, the 37-year-old would be willing to continue his playing career if “the opportunity presents itself.” After missing the entire 2016 season due to a torn Achilles, Watson bounced back in 2017 with the Ravens, hauling in 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. After being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, Watson has also played for the Patriots, Browns, and Saints.
  • Former NFL agent (and current CBS Sports writer) Joel Corry continues to explore the ideal contracts for some of the NFL’s top free agents and extension candidates. Corry believes Le’Veon Bell should pursue a five-year, $71.25MM deal with $19MM in guaranteed money. Corry also focuses on wideouts Jarvis Landry, who he believes should look for a five-year, $75MM deal ($48MM guaranteed), and Allen Robinson (one-year, $10MM, $9MM guaranteed). Tight end Jimmy Graham (four years, $34MM), offensive guard Andrew Norwell (five years, $65MM), and offensive tackle Nate Solder (five year, $72.5MM) were also included in Corry’s analysis.
  • Corry also took a look at the top free agents/extension candidates on defense. The largest suggested contract goes to defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, as Corry suggests a five-year, $97.5MM deal (with $60MM guaranteed). The former agent also analyzed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (four years, $66MM), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (five years, $81.25MM), cornerback Trumaine Johnson (five years, $77.5MM), cornerback Kyle Fuller (five years, $67.5MM), and safety Lamarcus Joyner (five years, $57.5MM).

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

Read more

Ravens TE Benjamin Watson Takes Pay Cut

Ravens tight end Ben Watson has agreed to take a pay cut, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. If Watson is healthy, the deal could improve his chances of making the final 53-man cut. Ben Watson (vertical)

Watson was previously slated to make $3MM in the coming season. Instead, he’ll now take in a base salary of $1.25MM with more than half of that sum ($750K) fully guaranteed. The deal also has incentive opportunities that can bring him back up to the original $3MM mark.

Watson could be key for the Ravens in the coming year now that Dennis Pitta is out of the picture. Last year, Pitta battled back from multiple hip injuries to turn in one of the best seasons of his career. Watson might not be able to match his production – Pitta caught 86 passes for 729 yards and two scores – but he could help to fill the void.

Watson, 36, signed a two-year, $7MM contract with Baltimore last spring, but never made it on the field after going down in August. In 2015, he had 74 receptions for 825 yards and six touchdowns for the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Notes: Boldin, Mosley, Jernigan

Although Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he’d “obviously” be open to signing veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, he admitted he’ll leave the club’s personnel decisions to general manager Ozzie Newsome, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Boldin, 36, has already indicated he’ll return for a 15th NFL season, but he may not sign with a club until later this summer. Baltimore may also look to find a receiver via trade, or perhaps pick up a veteran wideout that has recently been cut by another club, says Harbaugh.

Here’s more on the Ravens:

  • Linebacker C.J. Mosley‘s fifth-year option is a mere “formality,” per Harbaugh, as Baltimore wants the former first-round pick “to be a Ravens for many years” (Twitter link via Zrebiec). The non-top-10 pick fifth-year option salary for linebackers in 2017 will be $8.369MM, so the figure could tick towards $9MM in 2019. Mosley, 24, missed two games last year but still racked up 92 tackles and four interceptions, grading as the league’s No. 7 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Harbaugh didn’t deny rumors that defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan could be traded, reports Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “Everybody is up for trade,” Harbaugh said. “It’s part of the conversation in the NFL.” Mike Lombardi of The Ringer recently indicated he’s heard Jernigan’s name pop up in trade discussions. Jernigan, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, played in all 16 games last season and managed five sacks.
  • While veteran tight end Ben Watson hasn’t yet been cleared to practice, he is ahead of schedule as he recovers from a torn Achilles, per Hensley. Watson, 36, signed a two-year, $7MM contract with Baltimore last spring, but never made it on the field after going down in August. There’s no guarantee Watson makes the Ravens’ final roster, as the club also boasts Dennis Pitta (who recently accepted a paycut), Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, and Darren Waller at tight end.
  • Right guard Marshal Yanda underwent offseason shoulder surgery to repair a nagging injury that caused him to miss three games in 2016, according to Hensley. Despite his health issues, the 32-year-old Yanda was spectacular once again last season, as PFF graded him as the NFL’s best guard. He’s signed through the 2019 campaign.

Ravens Place Watson, Arrington On IR

The Ravens took a big step towards getting their roster down to 75 today. The Ravens announced that they have placed veteran tight end Ben Watson and cornerback Kyle Arrington on injured reserve. Meanwhile, the team has also waived eight other players and cut one.

Both Watson and Arrington suffered their season-ending injuries during preseason. In the Ravens’ preseason opener against the Panthers, Arrington suffered a concussion that he has yet to recover from. Watson, meanwhile, tore his Achilles on Saturday night against the Lions.

The Ravens cut linebacker Kavell Conner and he’ll immediately hit the free agent market as a vested veteran. Meanwhile, the following eight players have been waived:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ben Watson Tears Achilles

After a revitalizing season that earned him a two-year commitment from the Ravens, Ben Watson now faces an uncertain future. The 35-year-old tight end tore his Achilles’ tendon on Saturday night, and the Ravens announced (on Twitter) he will be out for the remainder of the season.

Watson suffered the injury on the first play of the Ravens’ preseason game against the Lions, doing so in a game that featured Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco make their 2016 debuts for Baltimore.

Watson signed a two-year, $7MM deal with the Ravens in March, with $3MM in full guarantees. He’s set to earn $4MM this season. Watson will turn 36 in December and will now be facing the prospect of potentially making a comeback for a 14th season in 2017 on the heels of one of toughest injuries from which to recover.

A former Patriots, Browns and Saints starter, Watson enjoyed his finest statistical season at age 34 last season, catching 74 passes for 825 yards and eight touchdowns — all career highs — and added to the Ravens’ deep, yet muddled tight end corps.

Baltimore still has 2015 second-rounder Maxx Williams, along with 2014 third-rounder Crockett Gillmore. Dennis Pitta remains the Ravens’ highest-paid tight end, but while he was finally cleared to return after the career-threatening hip injury, the 31-year-old is out due to a broken finger sustained in a training camp fight. Pitta
played just seven games in the past three seasons.

So, the Ravens might have the depth to withstand this. But their 2016 passing game — which will attempt to pick up the pieces after the team lost most of its starting skill-position talent in 2015 — will absorb a hit as a result of Watson’s absence.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.