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New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The book on former New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson's NFL career isn't closed after all — it's just flipping back to Page 1. 

Watson, who has played 14 seasons in the NFL, said he was intending to retire after the 2018 season with the Saints. But earlier this offseason he hinted he might not follow through with that plan after all, instead indicating he would make a decision after the birth of his twins. 

He announced their arrival on April 15th, and on Thursday afternoon he was set to set to sign with the reigning champion New England Patriots, according to a reports from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

A report said Watson was also considering the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. The Saints signed veteran Jared Cook earlier this offseason. 


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The Patriots were the team that drafted Watson No. 32 overall in 2004, and he played his first six NFL seasons in New England. Watson has also played for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, as well as four seasons with the Saints. His 2018 New Orleans return had mixed results, and he was forced to sit out the team's NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams after suffering an appendicitis. 

"You hope you get to exit on your own terms," Watson said last season while discussing his plans to retire. "You hope you get to exit with a great win. It's been great to be a part of this team and have this sort of winning at this point in my career."

Watson was one of the first players to call out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly about a controversial no-call late in the game that likely cost the Saints a chance to make their first Super Bowl since 2009.

In a letter posted to Twitter, Watson said Goodell's silence on the issue was "unbecoming" of his position, "detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissal to football fans everywhere."

"Lead by example," Watson wrote. "We are waiting."

Rules governing replay review of called and uncalled pass interference penalties have since been changed to allow for coaching and booth challenges. 

Along with being one of the league's most recognizable veterans, Watson is also a pillar in the community, as well as a noted philanthropist and activist. In April, he helped spearhead a fundraising campaign that quickly raised more than $2 million to benefit three historically black churches that were burned down by an arsonist in St. Landry Parish. 

The fundraising driver elicited donations from many big names, including Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. Watson posted on Twitter that Bisciotti called him directly to pledge $100,000. 

Among many other humanitarian efforts, Watson and teammate Austin Carr spent the summer before last season in the Dominican Republic to aid the fight against sex trafficking. 

Watson's return brings him back to the NFL as one of its oldest non-quarterback or special teams players. However, a Patriots return does bring him back to what might just be the fountain of youth. Kicker Adam Viniateri, now with the Indianapolis Colts, played alongside Watson during his time in New England and is currently the oldest player in the NFL at 46. 

Tom Brady, meanwhile, continues shattering aging expectations. The quarterback of the reigning champion Patriots is the oldest non-kicker in the NFL at 41 years old. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is second on that list, celebrating his 40th birthday in January.