Benjamin Watson might not be able to handle another life-altering event this week. Two is plenty.
The former Northwestern High School football standout signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints on Monday. His wife Kirsten went into labor around noon Tuesday in Cleveland. The dutiful husband and father signed his contract Monday then turned around and headed right back to Ohio, shedding a suit and tie for scrubs.
“I’m telling you man,” Watson said Tuesday, “it’s been a crazy week.”
After a healthy birth for mother and son Tuesday afternoon, both the family and the football team can celebrate new additions. Watson, who was an unrestricted free agent, can also celebrate another nice contract with which to take care of his growing family, this time with an NFL contender.
“It’s exciting to go to a team with a chance to be competitive,” said Watson about New Orleans. “The fanbase down there that supports them, I’ve always heard great things.”
After seven successful years with the New England Patriots, Watson fell off the map a bit in Cleveland as the Browns struggled during his three-year stint. He was consistent, starting 41 games during that stretch, though Cleveland went 5-11 each year and never made the playoffs.
The former Georgia Bulldog is delighted to join up with the Saints, a franchise that went 7-9 last year but is only three years removed from a Super Bowl title, and boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the business in Drew Brees. Watson, who excelled playing with Tom Brady in New England, was stoked to line up with Brees.
“There’s only a handful of quarterbacks that are considered elite, and Drew Brees is definitely one of them,” he said. “He’s a ‘study-aholic’ from what I hear and has mastered the offense. Coach (Sean) Payton does a good job of allowing him to take ownership of the offense and to give input, and when a quarterback feels comfortable like that, that’s when they excel to that elite level.”
Watson also will team up with New Orleans’ standout tight end Jimmy Graham, the former University of Miami (Fla.) basketball player who made an almost effortless transition into one of the NFL’s most dangerous and athletic pass-catchers. Despite a nagging wrist injury, Graham still caught 85 passes for 982 yards and nine touchdowns last season, following a 2011 campaign in which he had 1,300 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Watson is no slouch either; the 6-foot-3, 255-pound tight end caught 49 passes for 501 yards and three scores last year in Cleveland, while starting in all 16 games. The opportunity to play alongside and mentor Graham as part of what’s now one of the best tight end tandems in the league is an exciting prospect for the 32-year-old.
“He’s definitely the star of that offense,” Watson said about Graham. “I’m hoping to compliment what he does, but I think I can definitely offer some experience… what it takes to have longevity in this league, and how to improve your craft.”
For Watson, part of the job is giving back to the community, regardless of where he lives or what uniform he’s pulling on. Watson has been synonymous with charity work at his previous stops in Boston and Cleveland, something he and his family are eager to continue in New Orleans.
“We are definitely excited about the community down there,” he said. “When I was flying out I was just looking down at the community and asking the Lord to provide opportunities to serve people in whatever way we can. Some of these events we did in Boston and Cleveland, we want to bring them down there, just serve people in different ways.”
Earlier this year, Watson was named a finalist for the Byron ‘Whizzer’ White Award, given to NFL players making a difference in the communities in which they play and live, and in New Orleans, he and his family are moving to a town in need of help. At the end of the day though, it still comes down to supporting your family, especially one that’s growing rapidly. Besides Grace (4-year-old), Naomi (2 1/2), and Isaiah (1), there is “Baby Boy Watson,” who by 4:24 p.m. on Tuesday was going by the name Judah Seth Watson instead. Tuesday evening was a time for celebration.
“It’s a blessing to be able to continue my career honestly,” said Watson. “I feel pretty good physically, and I still want to play. I think the key is having the desire to play, and having a chance to do that with the Saints is a good opportunity.”
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T