Ever since the Cleveland Browns traded away often-disgruntled Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. in February of 2009, they have been trying to find a replacement as their starter.
Last year the Browns signed Robert Royal, but after having many questionable balls dropped or bounce right off of his hands, that experiment quickly ended with unknown practice squad tight end, Evan Moore, coming in to try and catch some passes toward the end of the season.
Moore, a converted wide receiver from Stanford, was able to catch 12 passes in five games compared to Royal's 11 catches in 13 games.
After the 2009 season ended, the question was posed that the Browns needed to get a true starting tight end and they found one in Patriots free agent, Benjamin Watson.
Watson was drafted by the Pats in the first round of the 2004 draft and has started in 47 of the 71 total games he has played in during his career.
He may not have the eye-popping career numbers Winslow has, but over his six seasons in the NFL, Watson has 167 receptions for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Solid numbers for a position that the Pats do not use as much as other teams do in their offensive scheme.
Also, both Browns head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll were with the Pats for Watson's first two years in the league and are more than familiar with the tight end and his abilities on the field.
Now all three are in Cleveland and Watson is getting a new and fresh start all over again on a rebuilding Browns team that is in dire need of a starting tight end and leader for the entire receiving group in general.
In the recent ongoing debate, on whether the Browns need a veteran receiver to teach their young and inexperienced group, Watson will help in mentoring but in a limited capacity since he will also be working with Moore, who is still learning the tight end position in his second year.
The Browns new north coast offense will employ a good amount of tight end usage and Watson has stepped into a good position to drastically increase his work load.
In his years coaching the Seahawks, Holmgren utilized the tight end position with players like John Carlson and Jerramy Stevens, and Seattle's tight ends usually averaged around 300-400 yards receiving per year.
Not terrible stats, but solid and it shows that Holmgren did indeed use a tight end in formations and schemes.
When Mangini was in New York, he too utilized tight ends with both Chris Baker and Dustin Keller in different years, who averaged near 400 yards per season respectfully.
With a young group of pass catchers, Watson should see an increase in production this upcoming season.
Watson could easily have quarterback Jake Delhomme looking his direction more and could equate in Watson getting near 600-700 yards (or more) receiving with the Browns in his first season.
So far during organized team activity (OTA) practices that have been open to the media, there has been nothing but praise for Watson by Mangini for his leadership, helping the younger players, and his ability to understand the new offense and do the things that Mangini wants Watson to do well.
Sounds like Watson is impressing so far during OTA and could be a solid contributor for the Browns for the next three years.
One year later after trading away a former first round tight end in Winslow, the Browns now seem to by in business by signing another former first round tight end in Watson.
(Article also posted on Dawg Scooper: THE Cleveland Browns Blog.)