Patriots need to activate tight end Ben Watson before 4 p.m. Monday to keep him away from free agency (Updated)

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Update: The Patriots ultimately declined to activate Ben Watson, making him a free agent. He reportedly wants to keep playing.

Ben Watson was once thought of as the Patriots' clear-cut No. 1 tight end. He was supposed to immediately resume that role upon returning from a four-game suspension. Now he's closer to finding himself an unrestricted free agent.

Watson needed to be activated from his suspension to the main roster by 4 p.m. on Saturday in order to play Sunday against the Redskins. Now the Patriots need to activate Watson by 4 p.m. on Monday, or else he will hit free agency. They will need to make a corresponding trade or release in order to make room for him on the 53-man roster.

In Watson's stead, the Patriots' active tight ends had their best performance of the season. As the team ran more two-tight end sets than at any other point in the season, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo blocked solidly up front and made plays in the passing game when called upon. Izzo caught his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter.

But are they both better all-around options than Watson?

After being viewed as the team's de facto primary option at tight end, the 38-year-old Watson finds himself on the brink. There's still about five and a half hours for the Patriots to make a decision, but it's getting closer to cutting Watson loose than previously expected.

One thing that the veteran TE has going for him is familiarity and rapport with Tom Brady, despite having not played for the Pats since 2009. It's quite likely that Brady would at least lobby for the team to find an opening on the roster for him. But they now have less than half a day to figure that out.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].