The New England Patriots’ tight end room gained 200-plus games of NFL experience on Monday.
It gained Ben Watson.
Watson, who missed the month of September while serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, received his reinstatement as the calendar turned to October. A temporary roster exemption followed for the Patriots.
But a role is expected to follow for the No. 32 overall pick in the war room’s 2004 draft.
“Well, Ben’s a versatile guy. He’s a smart guy,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on his Tuesday conference call. “He has certainly made a lot of plays in his career. Just gives us an element of speed and experience at the tight end position. He’s been a productive guy, made plays under pressure.”
Watson, at age 38, joins a depth chart that features March free-agent signing Matt LaCosse and 2018 seventh-rounder Ryan Izzo.
The latter tight ends combined to catch four passes for 77 yards over New England’s 4-0 start. But LaCosse was sidelined for two contests as a result of an ankle injury suffered in the preseason opener, and Izzo predominantly served as an in-line blocker.
The fort was held down to the tune of 223 offensive snaps. Neither LaCosse nor Izzo was targeted by quarterback Tom Brady last weekend versus the Buffalo Bills.
Time will tell just how Watson checks in this weekend versus the Washington Redskins.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Georgia product collected 35 receptions for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season with the New Orleans Saints. Watson started four games in the process, before a brief stop in retirement ended with a return to the organization that drafted him on a one-year pact.
“Ben’s been coming back here. It’s great to have him back this offseason into training camp,” McDaniels said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to move forward with him in a role that suits his skillset and our team.”
Watson caught 167 passes for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns across his initial six regular seasons with New England. An additional three touchdowns, along with a non-touchdown against Hall of Fame inductee Champ Bailey, would arrive in the postseason.