FOXBORO — Benjamin Watson has apparently gotten the message that if you snooze, you lose.
Watson, the 32nd pick in April's NFL Draft and one of just two remaining first-round holdouts, fired his agent, Tom Condon, late Thursday night according to a report Friday in the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham.
Watson is one of only two first-round holdouts left in the NFL, along with quarterback Philip Rivers of North Carolina State, the No. 4 selection overall, who was traded from the New York Giants to San Diego as part of the Eli Manning deal.
Watson, a bruising 6-foot-4, 258-pound tight end out of Georgia, has been absent from the Patriots' training camp for 16 days. He is the longest holdout of Robert Kraft's ownership, and the longest for a Patriot draft choice since linebacker Chris Singleton of Arizona remained without a contract for 50 days.
Watson's decision to change agents was confirmed by the NFL Players Association, with which all agents must be registered. The move is seen as a means of ending the impasse between the rookie tight end and the Patriots and get him into camp before he falls farther behind in preparation for his first NFL season.
According to published reports, the biggest sticking point between the Patriots and Condon was the length of contract being offered, as well as the difficulty of reaching some of the performance incentives contained within the Patriots' offer.
Reportedly, Condon was seeking a five-year contract for Watson, while the Patriots were offering six — the same length of time they gave their other first-round draft pick, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork of Florida.
Reportedly, Condon was seeking the shorter contract because Watson, who will turn 24 in December, is older than other first-round picks and would be about to turn 30 when the Patriots' offer expires, therefore lessening Watson's earning power on the free-agent market.
In the meantime, the rookie from Rock Hill, S.C., was losing valuable time and an enhanced opportunity in training camp by holding out. With recent free-agent signee Zeron Flemister having gone on the injured reserve list with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, only veteran Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham remained on board as experienced tight ends.
Watson has not had good luck with his representation since becoming eligible for the NFL draft.
He initially signed with Darrell Wills of IMG, who attempted to leave the mega-agency, form his own agency and take his IMG-represented clients with him. That action prompted Wills' decertification as an approved agent by the NFLPA.
Watson, still contractually bound to be represented by IMG, took on Condon as his agent. Condon has several high-profile NFL players under his wing, but none among the Patriots.
According to the MetroWest Daily News report, NFLPA rules dictate that Watson must wait five days before officially hiring a new agent — which means that for him to get into camp immediately, he would have to accept a deal while acting as his own representation.
Georgia-based Patrick Dye Jr., is believed to be Watson's first choice as a new agent, according to the Daily News report. Dye represents rookie wide receiver P.K. Sam, who signed a five-year contract with the Patriots last month.
The Patriots have had admirable success in getting their draft picks into camp during the Kraft ownership. The last holdout prior to this year was running back J.R. Redmond in 2000, and that was more a matter of his being physically ready for training camp than it was over contractual issues. His holdout lasted three days.