Patriots Football

Patriots tight end Ben Watson catches a pass during a preseason practice session at Gillette Stadium in August.

Ben Watson would have helped the New England Patriots. He likely would have been the best two-way tight end on their roster.

Former Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden called Watson among the best blocking tight ends in the league just last week. Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said last week that Watson offers “an element of speed and experience at the tight end position.”

Even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a fair share of praise for the veteran tight end during his press conference on Tuesday as well.

“Ben’s a great player,” Brady said of Watson, who was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. “He’s been a great player for this team, for other teams. He’s had an incredible career.”

It made the decision to cut Watson on Monday due to “not having a roster spot” quite a head scratcher.

If it was based on getting the best 53 men on the roster, the Patriots could have found a roster spot. They have three quarterbacks, two other tight ends and a handful of special teams players that could have been the odd-man out. Specifically, Jordan Richards was brought in last week, and while he made a pair of special teams tackles against the Redskins, he will likely not see a defensive snap this season.

The lack of a roster spot is not why Watson is currently not in New England. It has nothing to do with that. No, it’s all about the Benjamins.

The Patriots releasing Watson on Monday was a way to create cap space. They created approximately $2 million in cap space with Watson not on the roster. The Patriots saw that as more valuable than having Watson on the roster.

It provides the Patriots a bit more flexibility with entering Week Six trending towards the trade deadline.

Perhaps the Patriots can now go after a receiver to help Brady. The rumor mill has been swirling about possible trade scenarios for Emmanuel Sanders (Denver), Stefon Diggs (Minnesota) or even A.J. Green (Cincinatti). They likely could not have done that with their cap restrictions prior. It could still be tough to accomplish now, but one way or another, cap space provides options.

With the trade deadline three weeks away (Oct. 29), the Patriots could look to acquire a receiver if the price is right. If not, they hope Watson is still available come late October and make a move then. Belichick definitely left the door open for that scenario.

“(We) like Ben, just, we don’t have a roster spot for him right now. So, maybe that’ll change, but for the moment, that’s where it is.”

Of course, and because nothing can be said without relating it to Antonio Brown, we’ll relate this to Antonio Brown.

Watson’s contract was not an issue before the Patriots acquired Brown for 11 days. Even with Brown’s short stay, he still counts $5.5 million against the cap this year and $10 million against the cap the next two years.

His contract will likely hamper the team’s ability to bring in high-end players (Redskins left tackle Trent Williams).

It’s a key reason why the Patriots have to be creative as they approach the trade deadline.

Unfortunately, for both Watson and the Patriots was the one who drew the short straw.

Sean McGuire covers the New England Patriots for The Sun Chronicle and can be followed on Twitter at @BySeanMcGuire.

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