Just months after he had announced his retirement at the end of the 2018 NFL regular season, veteran tight end Benjamin Watson is reportedly preparing to sign with the same team he played for during the first six seasons of his pro football career — the New England Patriots.
On Thursday morning, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport took to Twitter, where he said that Watson is “planning to sign back with New England again.” While Rapoport noted that there are still some issues that both sides need to work out before the deal is finalized, he stressed that they aren’t serious enough to derail the rumored negotiations.
As reported by CBS Sports, the 38-year-old Watson announced in December that he would be retiring at the end of the 2018 season, effectively wrapping up a long career — one that started with the Patriots, in 2004. Over 15 seasons, Watson also played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints. He compiled a total of 530 receptions for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. Watson last played for the Saints, where he caught 35 passes for 400 yards and scored two receiving touchdowns in the 2018 campaign.
In his last stint with New England, Watson was part of the team that defeated the Philadelphia Eagles at the 2005 Super Bowl, though he did not play in the game due to a knee injury. He originally joined the Patriots as the organization’s first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, where he was selected 32nd overall out of the University of Georgia.
According to Sports Illustrated, Watson considered a few other teams — including the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and San Francisco 49ers — before he reportedly agreed to return to the Patriots.
Watson’s apparent return to New England comes about a month and a half after the team’s star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, announced his retirement from pro football after 10 NFL seasons. As pointed out by CBS Sports, Watson will likely be joining a group of tight ends that currently includes Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo. Watson could have an edge as Gronkowski’s likely replacement because of his experience, blocking ability, and familiarity with the Patriots’ offense.
“New England’s offense is going to have to change without Gronkowski no matter what, but having someone with the institutional knowledge of the system and, presumably, the trust of [quarterback] Tom Brady, can make the transition a bit smoother,” wrote the outlet’s Jared Dubin.