Former Ravens tight end Watson returns to New Orleans on one-year deal

March 28, 2018 | Luke Jones

After contemplating retirement earlier this offseason, former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson is going back to New Orleans.

On Wednesday, the 37-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Saints, the team he left two offseasons ago to sign a two-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore. Watson was reportedly moving toward a deal with Kansas City last week, but a reunion with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees proved too enticing as he caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans in 2015.

Watson led the Ravens with 61 receptions and tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches last season, completing an impressive comeback after missing the entire 2016 season with a torn Achilles tendon. He was highly respected on the field and for his work in the community as he was the team’s 2017 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, but Baltimore hopes to add more youth and play-making ability to the position to go along with blocking tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams.

How the Ravens will do that remains to be seen with few appealing options remaining on the free-agent market and history suggesting it’s an unwise gamble to count too heavily on a rookie tight end. This year’s draft class lacks an elite talent at the position, but Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, Mike Gesicki of Penn State, and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are considered good prospects

“We’re going to try and get one,” said head coach John Harbaugh at the owners meetings in Orlando on Tuesday. “Not to take anything away from Maxx and Nick — I think those guys have skills and stuff. I think they both have excellent hands and they can make plays for you, especially underneath moving the chains and those kinds of things. But I also think those guys are excellent blockers. They’ve proven that. Those guys have a huge role on our team. I love those two guys.

“A pass-catching tight end is someone that can stretch the field, make some big plays for us. That’s something that we want to have.”

Watson is the Ravens’ third unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere this offseason, joining center Ryan Jensen (Tampa Bay) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (Philadelphia). He will be entering his 15th NFL season and has caught 495 passes for 5,485 yards and 42 touchdowns over his career spent with New England, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Baltimore.