FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots cut Ben Watson because they didn’t have a roster spot for him. Once they did, they brought him back.
That’s the straightforward explanation Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave Thursday when asked why the team chose to re-sign the veteran tight end.
“We had a roster spot,” Belichick said. “We had availability. (Fullback Jakob Johnson) went on IR, so we had an opportunity to put (Watson) on the roster that we didn’t have the week before.”
Watson has yet to appear in a regular-season game for the Patriots since returning to New England this spring following a decade spent in Cleveland, Baltimore and New Orleans. The 38-year-old began the season by serving a four-game PED suspension, after which the team decided not to activate him, making him a free agent.
The Patriots initially opted to roll with Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo as their only two tight ends, but after LaCosse and Johnson both suffered injuries during a win over the New York Giants last Thursday, they changed course. In addition to re-signing Watson, they also signed former New York Jets and Giants tight end Eric Tomlinson to bolster arguably the team’s weakest position group.
At 6-foot-6, 263 pounds, Tomlinson is the largest tight end on the Patriots’ roster. He also played some fullback for the Jets in 2017 and 2018, so he could be used to fill the void created by Johnson’s and James Develin’s injuries. Belichick said the team still is determining how best to utilize his skill set.
“We’ll see,” the coach said. “We haven’t had a lot of time with him, but we’ll work with him and see what kind of role he can develop for himself, if there is one. We’ll see. … He’s a bigger guy, has blocking ability. He has been in the backfield. He’s played on the line of scrimmage. We’ll see how all of that plays out.”
The 6-0 Patriots, who cut third-string quarterback Cody Kessler to make room for Tomlinson, are preparing to visit the 1-4 Jets on Monday night.