Between 2010 and 2018, the tight end position played a key role in the New England Patriots’ offense thanks in large parts due to Hall of Fame talent Rob Gronkowski. With Gronkowski retired, however, tight end has seen decreased importance — at least through the first four weeks of the 2019 regular season. That could change soon, however, as the Patriots will get some reinforcements later this week.
Tight end Benjamin Watson, who missed the first four games of the season after violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, is now eligible to return to New England’s 53-man roster. While the team will take its time and activate the veteran at the last possible moment — roster spots are valuable, and being able to keep an additional player around worth a lot — he will soon be reintegrated into the Patriots offense.
This certainly comes at a good time for a unit that has gotten little production out of its tight ends so far. Ryan Izzo saw most of the action through Week 4, but he has caught just two passes for 44 yards while primarily serving as a blocker. Matt LaCosse, meanwhile, still appears to be limited because of an ankle injury he suffered in preseason: he has seen limited snaps so far, and has two receptions for 33 yards on his résumé.
While Watson is no Gronkowski — frankly, no tight end is — his addition should make the entire position better due to his experience as both a pass catcher and a blocker. Having him available would in turn also relegate Izzo to more of a rotational role instead of the top option. The second-year man and the Patriots offense as a whole should benefit from such a move, and from having an additional body like Watson available.
In order to activate the 38-year-old, the Patriots will of course make a roster move. While parting ways with either Izzo or LaCosse is possible, it seems more likely that third-string quarterback Cody Kessler or maybe even one of the team’s depth option along the offensive line — either Caleb Benenoch or Korey Cunningham — will get the axe in favor of Watson. What we know is that a move will be made later this week.