Ravens agree to deal with veteran tight end Watson


A day before the market was officially open for business, the Ravens secured their first free-agent acquisition ready to sign.
Baltimore came to an agreement in principle on a two-year, $7 million deal with veteran tight end Benjamin Watson on Tuesday afternoon, according to NFL Network. Teams and free agents are not allowed to finalize deals until Wednesday at 4 p.m. when the new league year begins and free agency officially opens.
The deal includes a $2 million signing bonus, a $1 million roster bonus due on April 1, and a $1 million base salary, meaning Watson will make a total of $4 million in the first year of the deal.
Watson, 35, caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans in 2015 after it appeared that his career was winding down with a combined 39 receptions in the previous two years. A former first-round pick of New England in 2004, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Watson has caught 434 passes for 4,963 yards and 38 touchdowns in his 12-year career with the Patriots, Cleveland, and the Saints.
The Ravens appeared to be set at the tight end position with the young trio of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle last season, but Gillmore is recovering from offseason surgeries to both shoulders and Boyle was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2016 regular season last month. General manager Ozzie Newsome said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that Gillmore may not be ready for the start of training camp, and head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens would be looking to add to the position.
The urgency shown and money spent to get a deal done with Watson makes you wonder if Gillmore’s status is a greater concern than Newsome indicated.
The Ravens are wise to bring in another tight end with Williams currently the only healthy and reliable option on the roster, but signing an unrestricted free agent is a rarity for the organization as it negatively impacts the formula for determining compensatory picks. It’s also difficult to overlook how many resources the organization has exhausted at tight end in the last two years, ranging from the ill-fated $32 million contract given to Dennis Pitta two years ago to the three selections used on tight ends in the last two drafts.