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Baltimore Ravens

Watson emerging in Ravens’ tight end battle

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

One of the more interesting developments to come from Baltimore Ravens camp is Joe Flacco quickly developing a rapport with Benjamin Watson. Flacco, coming off a significant injury, and Watson, a free agent pickup, seemed like a long shot to hit it off right away. After all, Flacco’s got several other tight ends on the roster who he has more experience with.

Nonetheless, per this piece from Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle P. Barber, the two veterans appear to be taking to one another well. Call it a classy or a savvy move by the veteran Watson, but his high praise of Flacco probably drew the quarterback’s attention - and perhaps a few more targets.

It’s hard to find many reasons to contend that Watson won’t be Baltimore’s leading-man at tight end. The Georgia product is coming off a career season with 74 receptions, 825 yards and six touchdowns. Not to mention he’s been a reliable piece for his teams for over a decade. That being the case, why would the 35-year-old sign somewhere he wouldn’t get the opportunity to start?

Watson’s status as the presumed favorite among Baltimore tight ends isn’t only of interest to him, however. The Ravens have several other tight ends on the roster, all of whom have starting experience. Telling where the trio of Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams will shake out hasn’t gotten any easier.

The player with the longest odds to make an impact shouldn’t come as a surprise to Ravens fans. Dennis Pitta was once a promising youngster in his own right, but back-to-back broken hips had him on the verge of retirement. Pitta opted to return and his regaining the form that made him a star-in-the-making would no doubt be a nice story to watch unfold.

But that doesn’t make it likely. Whether or not he sustains another injury, it’s very likely that Pitta’s lost a step. With all the young talent at his own position, Pitta will have to prove he can contribute in a hurry. Otherwise, he runs the risk of taking on a mentor role or even being released.

As for the two youngsters on the roster, it’s hard to say who Baltimore might favor. Gillmore was a third-rounder in 2014 and Williams followed as a second-rounder a year later. To this point, Gillmore’s been the more productive of the two. But, given that Williams has just his rookie season under his belt, that can be forgiven.

Williams does have the advantage of good health this offseason. Gillmore was banged up all throughout 2015 and eventually landed on injured reserve. Any rust for Gillmore might give Williams a chance to get up. That said, both men came to camp seemingly healthy and ready to go.

In the future, these two could make for one of the league’s best one-two punches at tight end. They have a contrast in styles that would complement one another well. Gillmore’s a physical, red-zone type of target. Williams has the wheels to break a big-gainer. In ’15, however, they’ll be jockeying for position with one another.

Of course, that’s the case for every member of this quartet. Watson has veteran savvy and Pitta has a long-lasting friendship with Flacco that should earn him some favor. Gillmore began to gel with Flacco last year and he and Williams are both seen as key pieces for Baltimore’s future.

Only one can lead the way in 2015, though, and the smart money’s on Watson.


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