After spending seven of his 15 NFL seasons in a New England Patriots uniform, Ben Watson announced his retirement from the NFL at the age of 39. Heading into the 2020 season, the Patriots must find a replacement for the dependable veteran.
The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian has assessed the gap created by Watson’s departure and has identified six potential replacements. There is a seventh whose name has been mentioned, and who might be available in a trade with the Chicago Bears.
Chicago Bears’ Adam Shaheen
This would likely be a longshot for the Patriots and he wasn’t on Guregian’s list, but the possibility of a trade for the Chicago Bears’ Adam Shaheen was discussed by cap expert Miguel Benzan as a possible salary-clearing deal that would also address one of the team’s biggest needs.
A trade that sent wide receiver Mohammed Sanu to the Bears (who do need a receiver) for Shaheen, would generate about $5.5 million in cap space.
Still, there is no real reason to expect this deal to take place, and Shaheen has been mostly a bust with the Bears since he was drafted 45th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
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The other potential replacements for Watson are as followed.
LaCosse played 11 games last season for the Patriots. He had 13 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown over 11 games. If LaCosse is given more opportunities, he could obviously improve those numbers, but the 27-year-old doesn’t seem like a long-term solution.
Like LaCosse, Izzo was with the Patriots in 2019. There is a little more upside here as he is just 24, and has displayed a bit more big-play ability. He only appeared in six games as a rookie, but he did make six receptions for 114 yards and a TD.
Don’t count him out.
As we head into the draft options, Notre Dame’s Kmet might be the most high profile, but NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein doesn’t have the shiniest assessment of his talent:
Long bodied, early entry Y tight end prospect who is a better pass threat than run blocker at this stage. Kmet should continue to fill out his frame, but his run blocking is too scattered and needs better focus and efficiency as a pro. He can be jammed and slowed by early contact into his route, but once he’s striding, he becomes a legitimate second-level threat with sneaky separation speed and intriguing ball skills. He’s still developing and could be a slow starter headed into the league, but he has the talent to eventually become a solid starter as a pass-catching in-line tight end with the ability to mismatch from the slot with his size.
Prospects don’t always turn out as projected–for better or worse–but it doesn’t sound as if Kmet fits the bill of what the Patriots traditionally look for in a tight end.
Dayton’s Adam Trautman
Trautman did some damage against questionable competition at Dayton, but there are questions as to whether his production will continue when faced off with elite athletes in the NFL.
At this point, most project him as a Day 3 pick. If that’s the case, the Patriots could select him late with one of their 12 picks.
Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant
Bryant might be the guy the Patriots and other teams are zeroed in on at tight end in this draft. NFL.com compares him to San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle and describe his athleticism with the trait “basketball fluidity.” We’ve seen this type of athleticism in greats like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.
Those are some lofty names to associate with a guy who hasn’t played in the NFL, but Bryant has a lot of people excited about his potential in the NFL.
He may not last past the second round, so if the Patriots want to get him, they may need to trade back from their No. 23 selection in the first round to add a pick and to be in a position to take Bryant.
Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam
As a pure athlete, Okwuegbunam is among the best in the draft at his position. At 6’5″ 258 pounds, he ran a stellar 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. However, his route running skills are considered raw.
If the Patriots are willing to be patient with his development, they may find a diamond here who is capable of being the up-the-seam threat the team has had at the position in the past.