Why Losing Out On Ben Watson Matters

Why the Seattle Seahawks missing out on free agent tight end Ben Watson matters.

Early this morning, free agent tight end Ben Watson agreed to a three-year, $12 million dollar contract, which reportedly includes $6.35 million dollars in guarantees, with the Cleveland Browns.

Watson (6-3, 255) visited the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week, and ESPN's Adam Schefter noted that Browns president Mike Holmgren outbid his former team (Seattle) for Watson's services.

Before anyone gets a Chief Brody look on their face, and mutters "You're going to need a bigger seaplane", it should be noted that Browns head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll were with the New England Patriots during Watson's first two seasons in the NFL.

Watson is from South Carolina, played his college ball at Georgia, and spent the last six years in New England. Signing with the Browns keeps him on the East Coast.

In Cleveland, Watson figures to be the top receiving tight end option for the Browns, whereas in Seattle, he'd play a complementary role to John Carlson. Despite Brandon Manumaleuna getting $3M per year from the Chicago Bears to block , $4M per year is an awful lot of money to pay a #2 tight end.

Targeting an athletic, pass-catching tight end like Watson and missing is disappointing, but at least it's a sign that the position will play a larger role in the Seahawks' offense going forward.

Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has said that his system will resemble the one Mike Shanahan ran with the Denver Broncos, where Bates was an offensive assistant from 2006-08. According to Football Outsiders' Pro Football Prospectus, the Broncos used two-tight end sets 32% of the time in 2006-07, and 25% of the time in 2008, the year Bates was calling the plays. During that '08 season, Broncos tight ends Tony Scheffler (61) and Daniel Graham (50) were the fourth and fifth most-targeted receivers in an offense that attempted the third-most passes in the NFL.

Last season, the Seahawks used two-tight end sets 16% of the time, which was an increase over the 12% from 2008, which ranked 32nd in the NFL that season. John Owens, Seattle's current backup tight end, had just six passes thrown his way in 2009, and while he did catch 3 of them for 16 yards, he is at his best when he's blocking.

The Seahawks are expected to host free agent tight end Chris Baker (Patriots) at some point in the near future. Beyond Baker, though, the unrestricted free agent tight end cupboard is stocked with over-30 players like Randy McMichael and David Martin, and injury risks like L.J. Smith, who turns 30 in May.

Seattle does have a young, athletic, pass-catching tight end on its roster in Cameron Morrah, a 2009 seventh-round pick out of Cal who barely saw the field in his rookie season (5 plays, none after Week 3). The Seahawks also met with USC tight end Anthony McCoy at the Combine in Indianapolis.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.

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