On Monday, the Patriots had until 4 p.m. to activate veteran tight end Benjamin Watson following receiving a roster exemption last week after he served his four-game suspension. That did not happen, which means he was released and is now a free agent.
“We only have so many roster spots, so if we put somebody on we have to take somebody off. Right now there wasn’t a roster spot,” Bill Belichick said on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria of the decision to move on from the 38-year-old.
So, what does it mean for the Patriots moving forward?
First off, it means the team will be going with only two tight ends — Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo — for the foreseeable future.
LaCosse had been battling a nagging ankle injury since the beginning of the season, but he finally appears healthy after playing 73 snaps against the Redskins on Sunday. It also appeared the team made a concerted effort to get the tight ends more involved in the game.
The pair combined for three catches on six targets for 61 yards and a touchdown (Izzo) in the blow out win. This brought the season total of catches for the tight end position to seven. It is also worth noting both contributed in the blocking game, as well.
With Watson officially no longer in the picture, these two players will need to step up and contribute more within the offense.
It’s also worth bringing up the financial component of the move.
Watson’s release saves the Patriots just under $2 million against the cap, bringing their available cap space to around $3.7 million. One of the possibilities following the move is the money saved will be going towards a player who is added via trade with the deadline coming up later in the month.
It was already reported Sunday the team is expected to make a push for Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.
Without the Watson release, adding a talented skill position player would have been be tough because of a lack of cap space available. Obviously, this could be worked around by releasing a player already on the roster, or signing another to a contract extension and spreading out the cap hits, but the $2 million freed up certainly makes things much easier for the team to add a solid offensive threat by the end of the month.
Given the way things stand now with the entire offense and some questions when it comes to the passing game, it would not be a surprise in the least to see a veteran player acquired via trade in the coming weeks.
And that may not have been possible without moving on from Watson.