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Benjamin Watson Compares Joe Flacco To Tom Brady, Drew Brees

New Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson sure knows how to ingratiate himself to his new quarterback.

And whether he intended to or not, he has just entered the everlasting "Is Joe Flacco elite?" debate.

Watson met Flacco for the first time Thursday, about 10 minutes before his introductory press conference, as Flacco was in the building rehabbing his knee.

But the 13-year veteran tight end has watched Flacco, and played against him, for a long time, and he knows what kind of quarterback will be throwing to him.

"He is definitely one of the elite quarterbacks," Watson said. "I can tell my grandkids that I played with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, and Flacco will definitely be added to that list."

Watson played with Brady in New England from 2004 to 2009. He had some fine seasons there, including catching 49 passes for 643 yards in 2006, then a career-high (tied) six touchdowns the following year. Watson was a first-round rookie when he won his only Super Bowl with the Patriots, though he played in just one game that year.

Watson went to Cleveland from 2010 to 2012 and still had some productive years despite the Browns' turmoil under center. He posted 68 catches for 763 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.

Watson's best year came last season, however, with Brees and the Saints. Watson notched career highs in receptions (74) and yards (825) and tied his career high in touchdowns (six).

So between Brady and Brees, Watson knows a thing or two about good quarterbacks.

"In order to win in this league, you have to have a quarterback who can make all the throws. [And Flacco] makes great decisions," Watson said.

"[You need] somebody who can get you out of bad situations, and that just gives you a chance to even win. And so, when you are a free agent like I was, it definitely makes a big difference when you want to go somewhere where you know that there's stability at the quarterback position."

Now the question is whether Watson will have the same kind of production with Flacco that he did with Brady and, particularly, with Brees last season.

When asked for an explanation of how he had a career year at 35 years old, Watson jokingly said, "I'm still looking for the explanation. Attribute it to my wife's cooking."

The Ravens have seen veterans near the end of their career still put up huge offensive numbers and are hoping for the same from Watson. Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. was on pace for 92 catches for 1,340 yards and six touchdowns last season before his tore his Achilles in Week 8.

Watson attributes his big 2015 season to two different factors: experience and opportunity.

"Over the course of your career, you learn different tricks of the trade," he said. "You learn about the commitment that it takes to be prepared. You learn about film study, and you learn about taking notes.

"I don't believe that I've reached my fullest potential as a football player yet, and I think that as long as I have that attitude, I can continue to improve."

A receiver can't put up many yards if the ball doesn't come their direction.

The Saints traded Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks last offseason, giving Watson the starting job after he started just 15 games over the previous two years.

With Brees at the helm, the Saints threw the ball the second-most times in the league (627). Watson got the second-most targets on the team (109) and caught nearly 68 percent of those passes. Brees threw for a league-high 4,870 yards.

"There were opportunities for me to be productive in the passing game that maybe weren't presented before," Watson said.

"You always have to be prepared for those opportunities. It doesn't mean they're going to come every year. Some years there may be more; some years there may be less, but as a professional, you always need to prepare yourself."

Watson said the Ravens offense is "somewhat similar" to the one the Saints run and he sees a vision in Baltimore to have an explosive offense.

The Ravens and Flacco love to throw to the tight end, as evidenced by Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta and others. Watson should see a lot of action, particularly if Crockett Gillmore (shoulders) misses any time.

"At 35 years old, I don't know what to expect. It's uncharted territory," Watson said.

"There are so many factors that go into how a guy's going to perform statistically. What the fans will know is that I'll always be prepared. I pride myself in taking care of myself and not playing like I'm 35, whatever that means, and that I'll be there to make plays."

Newsome joked about Watson's productivity at such a late age.

"I played 13 years, and I can say watching him on tape, he played better last year than played in Years 12 and 13," Newsome said. "Now, he's probably getting a lot more balls thrown to him than I was, but ..."

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