The Patriots are re-signing tight end Ben Watson just a week after they released him.
The addition comes four days after tight end Matt LaCosse injured his knee against the Giants and coincides with the placement of fullback Jakob Johnson, who has a shoulder injury, on injured reserve.
Last week, after the Patriots released Watson instead of activating him after his four-week suspension to start the season, coach Bill Belichick said the team had to release him because it didn’t have a roster spot for him.
That has changed, a possibility Belichick had accounted for when discussing the roster move last week.
“[We] like Ben, just, we don’t have a roster spot for him right now,” said Belichick. “So, maybe that’ll change, but for the moment, that’s where it is.”
LaCosse, who also missed time during the preseason and beginning of the regular season with an ankle injury, finished the Giants game in a knee brace and was limping afterward. The only other tight end on the Patriots roster is Ryan Izzo, a seventh-round pick last year. Especially if LaCosse misses time, it makes sense that the Patriots would turn to a player like Watson, who knows the offense and fills a need.
It certainly should make Tom Brady happy.
“Ben’s a great player,” Brady said last week, after Watson’s release. “He’s been a great player for this team, for other teams, he’s had an incredible career and hopefully he can keep playing.
“I know he was looking forward to playing. I miss him. He was right next to me [in the locker room], and for as great as a player he was, he was 10 times a better person, just the highest integrity.
“I can’t say enough good things about Ben, what he’s meant to me, my family, our team. So, we’re going to miss him.”
Watson, 38, had been suspended for the first month of the season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. According to Watson, he took a banned substance, Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate, during the offseason when he considered himself retired. When teams started calling, trying to lure him out of retirement, he realized he’d failed an offseason drug test and would have to miss the time.
The Patriots brought Watson back to practice following his suspension, but released him instead of activating him.
That should somewhat temper expectations for how productive he’ll be this time around, but it’s worth noting that the $2 million in savings against the salary cap the Patriots got for releasing Watson likely played a role.
It would be unrealistic to expect Watson to have the explosion or power he once did, but he was still reasonably effective for the Saints last year when he had 400 receiving yards and two touchdowns while catching 76 percent of his targets. As of last year, he was still dangerous when given a free release and figures to be an option in the red zone, where the Patriots offense is currently ranked 22nd in the league, having scored touchdowns on 13 of 26 trips (50 percent) inside the 20.
Watson should not take long to get worked into the offense since he has a background in the Patriots system and spent training camp, the preseason, and a couple practices in Week 5 with the team.