Ben Watson is back from suspension, but the New England Patriots will have a few extra days to decide which player he’ll be replacing on their 53-man roster.
As is standard in these situations, the NFL granted the Patriots a roster exemption for the veteran tight end as he returns from his four-game PED suspension, head coach Bill Belichick confirmed Monday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria.”
That means the team can wait until this weekend to officially add Watson to their roster, delaying the need for a corresponding roster move. In order to be eligible to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins, Watson must be activated by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The most obvious cut candidate is third-string quarterback Cody Kessler, who signed with the team last week and was inactive for Sunday’s 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills. If the Patriots choose to keep Kessler, an offensive lineman like Caleb Benenoch or Korey Cunningham could be on the chopping block.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Belichick said when asked about Watson’s return on “OMF.” “Right now, we have a roster exemption for him, so we’ll just evaluate it. We haven’t been on the field yet, so we will evaluate it and see how it goes.”
Watson played six seasons in New England from 2004 to 2009, then returned to the team a decade later, ending his short-lived retirement to sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the Patriots in May. The 38-year-old played 42 offensive snaps over three preseason games this summer, catching two passes on three targets for 24 yards.
The Patriots have gotten little production from the tight end position this season, with Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse combining for just four catches for 77 yards through four games. LaCosse also has missed two games and been limited in another with an ankle injury.