Benjamin Watson

AFC East Notes: Patriots, McCourty, Dolphins

Ben Watson is now in his second stint with the Patriots, and the veteran tight end acknowledged that he has a greater respect for coach Bill Belichick than he did during his first go-around.

“I definitely have a different appreciation for him than I had 15 years ago,” Watson told SiriusXM Radio (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “There are many ways he hasn’t changed. Sitting in the team meeting room, he says a lot of the same things, because they are still true. Being much older than I was before, I’m able to appreciate that a lot more — a lot of the coaching, and embrace it in a way I wasn’t before. I can also see him separate from the coach, he does enjoy himself, he does smile, he does do all those things as a young player you thought he never did.”

The 2004 first-round pick spent the first six seasons of his career with New England, and he came out of retirement to (partly) replace the offensive production of Rob Gronkowski. Watson will sit out the first four games of the upcoming season after failing a drug test.

Let’s check out some more notes out of the AFC East…

  • The Patriots have had an undrafted rookie make their 53-man roster for 15 straight years, and Reiss writes that NC State wideout Jakobi Meyers is the leading candidate to earn a spot this year. The six-foot-two wideout was seen practicing with the first team all week, and the Patriots’ depth chart is currently struggling with Julian Edelman sitting out. Meyers hauled in 92 receptions for NC State last season, breaking Torry Holt‘s school record.
  • Safety Devin McCourty is about to start his 10th NFL season, but the Patriots veteran hasn’t thought about when he’s going to hang up his cleats. “I’ve been having a lot of fun this year,” McCourty told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “I haven’t thought about next year or anything else. I’m just trying to see how much better I can get in year 10 and see how good I can be still at, in a couple weeks, (when I turn) 32 years old and still playing football and trying to embrace that.”
  • The Dolphins defense should look a whole lot different next season, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that much of that can be attributed to the defensive-minded Brian Flores. The team’s new head coach is planning on having several different looks (or “groups,” as Flores calls them) on defense, including 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, and something else altogether different. “It really comes back to trying to put the right personnel groupings out there to match up with what the offense is doing and try to maximize the skill set of our players,” explained defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. “If it’s five or 10 safeties, then that’s what it is.”
  • Defensive lineman Tank Carradine is a fan of the defensive scheme, noting that it could help him become a three-down player. “There are different schemes that we run, and I have to be able to set the edge, play inside,” Carradine said. “They’re trying to move me all over the field. That’s something that I like. It’s giving me a chance to play different positions and be all out there and be an every-down player.”

Latest On Benjamin Watson’s Suspension

Ben Watson recently joined the Patriots, but the veteran tight end won’t be suiting up for the team until Week 5. We learned yesterday that the 38-year-old will be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season.

In a Facebook post, Watson explained that he thought he was retiring for good after the 2018 season, so he wasn’t quite as careful with his treatment. He was given Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate by a doctor, which is banned by the league. Only after he made the decision to return to the NFL did he realize the implications, and he ended up failing a drug test.

Some additional notes and opinions have emerged over the past 24 hours pertaining to Watson’s suspension, which we’ve collected below:

  • While Watson is set to miss four games, he still has a good chance of meeting his incentives. As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Watson’s deal with the Patriots includes $650K in incentives: $250K if he appears in 35-percent of the team’s offensive snaps and another $400K if he appears in 45-percent of the snaps. Florio calculates that Watson will need to “get roughly 66 percent of the snaps in the remaining games of the year to earn the full incentive.”
  • Albert Breer of SI.com believes the Patriots could still be in the hunt for more tight end depth. The writer cites the organization’s handling of their 2006 receiver corps; among the three (yes, three) active New England receivers in the AFC title game, one (Jabar Gaffney) didn’t join the team until October. Breer notes that this “a sign of how the Patriots can bring guys along and how they adjust.”
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that Watson’s suspension should strengthen Austin Seferian-Jenkins‘ chances of making the roster. The 26-year-old, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots back in April, had 11 receptions in five games for the Jaguars last season. Meanwhile, Volin believes that fellow free agent addition Matt LaCosse likely has a roster spot locked up, while the team could also lean on some of their young options (including Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, and Andrew Beck).
  • Volin also opines that the suspension could be a blessing in disguise for Watson. While the veteran hasn’t missed a regular season game since 2013, he’s still 38-years-old. The four-game absence could prove to be especially helpful come playoff time, with Volin pointing to previous performances from Tom Brady (2016) and Julian Edelman (2018).

Benjamin Watson To Be Suspended 4 Games

The Patriots’ new tight end, Ben Watson, won’t be able to suit up right away. The veteran, who recently came out of retirement to join New England, announced in a Facebook post that he’ll be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season, per Mike Reiss of ESPN (Twitter link).

In the post, Watson explains that he thought for sure he was retiring for good after the 2018 season, so he wasn’t quite as careful with the treatment he received. He was given Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate by a doctor, which is banned by the league. Only after he made the decision to return to the league did he realize the implications, and he ended up failing a drug test.

While it’s obviously not a welcome development, the news isn’t blindsiding the Patriots. Watson says in his post that he discussed the failed drug test with teams before signing, so New England was prepared for this suspension. Watson won’t be appealing the ban, as he writes that he wants to”respect the regulations that have been collectively bargained to promote fairness on the field of play and accept the discipline associated with my infraction.”

While the Patriots should be just fine in the first month of the season without him, it will leave them quite thin once again at tight end. Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement this offseason left them with very few proven options at the position, although they have signed a few guys like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse.

Watson is 38 now but he remained reliable in 2018, appearing in all 16 games for the Saints. He finished the season with 35 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Just a few years ago he was a huge part of the Saints’ offense and racked up 825 yards and six touchdowns, so he’s a capable receiver. Just yesterday we heard that Watson only considered coming out of retirement for the Patriots and the Saints, despite interest from at least a handful of teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ben Watson Only Considered Patriots, Saints

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.

Extra Points: Offsets, Comp Picks, Watson

Every year there are a few first round picks that take a while to sign. On rare occasions, like in the case of Joey Bosa a few years ago, it causes them to miss regular season action. Last year, it was eighth overall pick Roquan Smith who took the longest to sign, as his negotiations with the Bears lasted into mid-August. The disputes are almost always about offset language, and we could all end up studying offset discrepancies again if an early pick prolongs the process. Interestingly, every first round pick that has signed so far, including first overall pick Kyler Murray, has had offset language included in their contracts, per Albert Breer of SI.com.

As Breer points out, it’s been a big sticking point ever since the 2011 CBA established slotted rookie contracts. With the amount of money locked in, it’s pretty much the only thing for agents to fight over. Breer writes that this year it’s “notable that teams are winning decisively in this area, considering how it caused dustups in the recent past.” While that’s true for now, the majority of first round picks still aren’t signed and it’s too early to be declaring the process smooth.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Teams are beginning to place more and more of an emphasis on compensatory picks, which isn’t surprising. In an era of professional sports when teams in every league are realizing the value of adding volume in drafts, NFL teams are wising up. Teams like the Patriots have been good at racking up compensatory picks for years, and other teams are starting to catch up. With the deadline for free agents to count against the compensatory pick formula passing recently, outlets are able to make their first projections about what the compensatory scene might look like for the 2020 draft. Our friends over at Overthecap.com came out with their projections, and New England looks likely to cash in once again. They project the Patriots to add two third round picks, for the departures of Trey Flowers and Trent Brown in free agency. The Eagles are projected to get the earliest compensatory pick, for the loss of Nick Foles.
  • Speaking of the Patriots, they signed tight end Ben Watson last week, luring him out of retirement. Now we have more details on his one-year contract, courtesy of Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). His $3MM deal will include $600k guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. He can also earn a $1.45m base salary, $300k in per-game bonuses, and $650k in incentives assuming he sticks on the roster. Volin writes that it “doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot, but chances are likely” he’ll be on the team. Watson is 38 now so he certainly won’t be replacing Rob Gronkowski‘s receiving production all by himself, but he can play a serviceable role and be a nice veteran leader.

Patriots Sign Benjamin Watson

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.

Patriots Meet With Ben Watson

Former Saints tight end Ben Watson, who previously said he would retire, will meet with the Patriots on Thursday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Watson isn’t putting all of his eggs into the Patriots’ basket, either – he’s also considering the Chiefs, Bills and, 49ers, according to Schefter. 

Watson is a free agent following the expiration of his one-year, $2MM Saints contract. He played four of the past six seasons with the Saints, who since replaced him with pricey free agent Jared Cook.

Watson played the 2017 season with the Ravens, missing all of 2016 due to injury, and spent the first three years of this decade in Cleveland. Unfortunately, his 2018 season ended a bit early when he missed the NFC championship game due to appendicitis. He caught 35 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.

Now, he could return to where it all began. Watson spent the first six years of his career with the Patriots after entering the league as the final first-round pick in the 2004 draft. After Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement, the Pats could certainly use the help, even if Watson doesn’t offer the same upside as the party animal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Benjamin Watson Interested In Patriots?

If Benjamin Watson returns to the NFL, he could join up with a contender that is badly in need of a tight end. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Watson comes back and signs with the Patriots, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Ben Watson Considering Comeback]

The Patriots lost one of the game’s very best tight ends when Rob Gronkowski retired earlier this offseason. Rumors continue to swirl about Gronk making a comeback of his own, but for now, the Patriots are moving forward with the belief that Gronk is gone for good.

Watson is 38 years old, but there’s reason to believe he can still be productive if he gets back on the gridiron. In 2017, his lone season with the Ravens, Watson compiled 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. Last year’s Saints return did not produce a gaudy stat line, but he still managed 35 grabs for 400 yards and two scores.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Benjamin Watson Considering Comeback

Having already had one of the longest careers of a modern skill-position player, Benjamin Watson may decide to come back for one more season.

The free agent tight end is considering a return, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Watson said near the end of last season his 15th NFL campaign would be his last. Now? Maybe not.

If the situation is right, the 38-year-old veteran may consider a return, Schefter adds. Watson and his wife plan to welcome twins next week, so a comeback will almost certainly be a post-draft consideration. Teams’ depth charts will become clearer after next weekend’s event.

Watson is a free agent after his one-year, $2MM Saints contract expired. He played four of the past six seasons with the Saints, who since moved on to Jared Cook. Watson played the 2017 season with the Ravens, missing all of 2016 due to injury, and spent the first three years of this decade in Cleveland. Watson began his career with the Patriots, playing six years in New England.

Watson’s 2018 season ended early. He missed the NFC championship game because of appendicitis. He caught 35 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints ‘ Ben Watson To Miss NFC Title Game

Saints tight end Ben Watson won’t play this week against the Rams, a source tells ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). Watson missed two practices due to appendicitis and the painful malady will prevent him from taking the field.

Watson has been able to avoid surgery so far, but anyone who has dealt with appendicitis knows that it’s debilitating, at least in the short term. But, should the Saints reach the Super Bowl, Watson will have a couple of weeks to rest up and get ready for the big game.

The 38-year-old has been incredibly durable throughout his 15-year career. Watson appeared in at least 12 games in 13 of his 15 seasons, and he had at least 20 receptions in 12 of those campaigns. The 2004 first-round pick spent the first six years of his career with the Patriots, including New England’s Super Bowl run in 2004 (although he won on the IR during their playoff run). Watson then spent three seasons in Cleveland before finding a home in New Orleans; the tight end has spent four of his past six seasons with the Saints (he also had a two-year stint with the Ravens).

Watson has been particularly productive during his tenure with New Orleans, including a 2015 campaign where he compiled a career-high 825 receiving yards. Watson re-joined the Saints on a one-year, $2MM deal back in March, and he appeared in all 16 games for the team in 2018, compiling 35 receptions for 400 yards and two scores. The first score was extra special as it was Drew Brees‘ 500th career touchdown pass.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.