Ben Watson’s second go-round with the New England Patriots was short-lived.
With his roster exemption set to expire at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, the Patriots chose not to activate the veteran tight end, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game this season. Watson now is a free agent.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss was the first to report the roster move, which Watson confirmed in a tweet.
The 38-year-old declined to speak with reporters when approached in the Patriots’ locker room around 3:35 p.m. He spent roughly 10 minutes removing various items from his locker and packing them into a backpack, then grabbed two pairs of cleats and exited the room.
Parting ways with Watson frees up roughly $2 million in salary cap space for the Patriots, who could be in the market for help at wide receiver ahead of the NFL’s Oct. 29 trade deadline.
Watson missed New England’s first four games while he served a PED suspension, and though he returned to practice last week, the team opted not to add him to its 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s 33-7 win over the Washington Redskins.
Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo — the only tight ends on New England’s roster since cutdown day — both played and made an impact against the Redskins, with the former logging a season-high 73 offensive snaps and the latter catching the first touchdown pass of his NFL career.
The tight ends also helped revitalize a stagnant Patriots rushing attack, with LaCosse and Izzo delivering key blocks on Sony Michel’s two longest runs of the afternoon. Michel finished with a season-high 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and the Patriots as a team rushed for 130 yards on 27 attempts.
Watson played his first six seasons in New England from 2004 to 2009 before stints in Cleveland (2010 to 2012), New Orleans (2013 to 2015, 2018) and Baltimore (2016 to 2017). He briefly retired this past spring before reversing course and rejoining the Patriots. He intends to continue his career elsewhere, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
The Patriots will host the New York Giants on Thursday night.