NFL rumors: Patriots won't activate Ben Watson, making him free agent

NFL rumors: Patriots won't activate Ben Watson, making him free agent

Benjamin Watson's second stint with the New England Patriots is over.

The Patriots have chosen not to activate the veteran tight end to their 53-man roster by Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. This move makes Watson a free agent.

The 38-year-old was signed by the Patriots in May. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 regular season. Watson was not activated by Saturday's deadline to play in Sunday's Week 5 road win over the Washington Redskins, and he took to Twitter Monday afternoon to express his disappointment.

This move isn't too surprising. 

Patriots tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse have improved over the last few weeks, making Watson's return less critical. Izzo and LaCosse were targeted a combined six times and tallied three receptions against the Redskins. Izzo hauled in two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Watson's departure also opens up valuable salary cap space (around $2 million) for the Patriots, who could look to make a move before the NFL trade deadline, which is set for Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. ET. The veteran tight end was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He spent the first six seasons of his career in New England.

Report: Pats among 'most active' teams ahead of NFL trade deadline>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

The New England Patriots added even more depth to an elite group of cornerbacks Sunday by acquiring Michael Jackson in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Jackson, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. The Detroit Lions signed him off the Cowboys practice squad last season and he played in one game for the NFC North team.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Here's an updated look at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart with Jackson in the fold:

--Stephon Gilmore
--Jason McCourty
--J.C. Jackson
--Jonathan Jones
--Joejuan Williams
--Michael Jackson
--Myles Bryant
--D’Angelo Ross

It should be noted that Justin Bethel is listed at cornerback, but most of his snaps come on special teams. 

A strong case could be made that cornerback is the deepest position on the Patriots roster. The group is led by Stephon Gilmore, who became the first Patriot ever to win the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. Gilmore is the league's best cornerback and has earned first team All-Pro selections in back-to-back seasons. 

He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. 

J.C. Jackson excelled in coverage last season, too, especially on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, Jackson had the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted of all cornerbacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

One of the most intriguing players in the Patriots secondary is second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2019 but saw limited playing time as a rookie.

The depth of the Patriots defense has been hit hard in recent months due to free agent departures and veterans opting out of the 2020 season amid concerns over COVID-19. One position that has remained largely intact is cornerback, and barring any significant injuries, it could be the team's most productive position this coming season.

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

The New England Patriots have added another cornerback to their depth chart.

On Sunday, they announced they've acquired Michael Jackson from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2022 draft pick.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (158th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Miami. He started his rookie season on Dallas' practice squad before being signed by Detroit.

The 23-year-old played in only one game last season for the Lions.

Jackson joins a Patriots cornerback group that currently consists of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D'Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel, and Myles Bryant.