The Patriots reunited with Ben Watson earlier this month to provide depth at the tight end position and help replace Rob Gronkowski. But Watson won’t be able to help out for the first four weeks of the 2019 season.
Watson, 38, announced Sunday on Facebook that he will start the season with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Watson wrote in his note that he expected to retire this offseason after 15 NFL seasons with the Patriots, Saints, Browns, and Ravens. Watson said that in early March, a doctor prescribed him Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate to help Watson heal his body and mind after a long career in football. Watson still took an NFL PED test on March 29, and said he had forgotten all about it when NFL teams started showing interest in him in late April.
Watson said he got word of his suspension on May 3, and the Patriots were aware of it when he signed on May 9.
“I am excited and thankful to return to New England but very disappointed that I will not be able to play and contribute immediately,” Watson wrote. “This is not how I would want to enter a new locker room and attempt to earn my role on a new team.”
Watson’s one-year deal has a base value of $2.05 million, and a maximum of $3 million with incentives and roster bonuses. The four-game suspension will cost Watson $482,487 — $341,176 in base salary, $75,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and $141,176 of his signing bonus.
But if Watson can stomach the financial hit, the suspension should help him preserve his body to get through a long NFL season, like it did for Tom Brady in 2016 and Julian Edelman in 2018.
Watson’s suspension could help the case of veteran tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, fighting for a roster spot. Free agent signee Matt LaCosse likely has a roster spot locked up, and a trio of inexperienced youngsters are battling for backup spots (Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, and Andrew Beck).