A week ago, the New England Patriots made the surprise move to release veteran tight end, Ben Watson, after he was eligible to return from his four-game suspension.
When asked why, Patriots coach Bill Belichick stated simply that “there wasn’t a roster spot available” for Watson.
It took seven days and another season-ending injury to rookie full back Jakob Johnson, but a roster spot finally opened up for the tight end who is looking to finish off his career on a high note. On Monday, ESPN’s Field Yates reported the Patriots would be resigning Ben Watson to help fill some depth at a position of need.
Watson, who spent his first six seasons in the NFL with the Patriots, was exempt for his first week back from suspension and practiced but did not travel with the Patriots ahead of their Week 5 contest with the Redskins. Having already had experience in the New England system this season and in years prior, Watson can help revitalize the tight end position for the Patriots that has taken a hit by means of a total overhaul.
The Patriots won’t have to release a player with Watson’s reacquisition as he fills the spot vacated by Johnson, who has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury against the New York Giants last Thursday.
New England was reportedly in the market for a tight end ahead of the upcoming trade deadline, including a link to Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert. But with Watson back in the fold, it appears New England may no longer have a need to make a trade at that position.
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Depth Definitely Needed
The Patriots are extremely thin at tight end and it was never more evident than last Thursday. When Jakob Johnson went down injured and Matt LaCosse was shaken up, the Patriots had only Ryan Izzo to rely on as a blocking pass-catcher.
While Izzo is certainly a viable option, it’s tough to ask any player to go 50 straight snaps both blocking and running routes. The physical toll that takes can easily hamper production.
But now, with Watson back to help add a flare of run-blocking mixed with excellent, experienced route-running and pass-catching, the Patriots may yet see production out of the tight end position as the season nears its second half.
Is Durability an Issue?
Watson already suffered an injury during a preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers. A late hit by Panthers safety Eric Reid resulted in a concussion for Watson.
The veteran, at age 38, will undoubtedly be more affected by minor aches and pains than he would be at a younger age. The question over how many snaps he will be able to play without lingering effects or higher risks of injuries may diminish.
If Matt LaCosse is unable to stay healthy consistently, New England still may find themselves in a situation where they trade for another young tight end.