BOSTON (CBS) — Hold on to your hats, New England football fans, because a former Patriots tight end is coming out of retirement to give it one more go with his old team.
Oh, you were thinking Rob Gronkowski? Well, no. Not yet.
But according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Benjamin Watson is planning to sign with the Patriots.
Watson was in Foxboro on Thursday to visit with the team that originally drafted him in 2004. He was also considering the the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The 38-year-old tight had made his plans to retire public last season, Watson’s fourth as a member of the New Orleans Saints. He missed the NFC Championship Game due to appendicitis, and he made quite a few headlines when he directly called out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a failure to make any public statement after a missed call severely damaged New Orleans’ chances of earning a trip to the Super Bowl.
Watson was originally drafted by Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the first round — No. 32 overall — of the 2004 draft. He missed almost the entirety of his rookie season due to injury, but would end up catching 167 passes for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns from 2004-09. He also made a play that didn’t stand out in any statistical record book but nevertheless lives on forever in Patriots lore, when he chased down Champ Bailey and made a (temporarily) touchdown-saving, near-turnover-causing tackle near the pylon in a playoff game in Denver following the 2005 season:
Watson’s next stop was in Cleveland, where he played three seasons, before spending three seasons in New Orleans, one year in Baltimore, and then one more season back in New Orleans. Last year, he contributed with 35 receptions for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In his career, he’s caught 530 passes for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns. After missing 15 games as a rookie, he’s played in an average of 15 games per year.
After the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ depth chart at tight end is looking slim. The team has signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse this offseason, in addition to having Stephen Anderson and 2018 draft pick Ryan Izzo on the roster. The team also signed Andrew Beck as an undrafted free agent this year.
Adding a veteran like Watson should be a nice boost to New England’s tight end group.