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MMQB: “You see no signs of decline” with Tom Brady, should Patriots extend Martellus Bennett?

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The Patriots have to answers a lot of questions about their roster building this upcoming offseason.

MMQB’s Peter King had a few thoughts on the Patriots week 5 performance against the Browns in his Monday column, and a few ideas about how the Patriots should build their roster moving forward.

First, King gets this great quote about Patriots QB Tom Brady from Browns 2nd-string QB Josh McCown who is dealing with a broken collar bone:

“To me,” McCown said about Brady, “he didn’t look much different today than he looked 10 years ago. He’s 39. I can tell you, as a 37-year-old guy, it was pretty encouraging to watch how good he was. You wonder, How long can he be this good? You see no sign of any decline.”

Brady was outstanding on the day and he should be even better moving forward. Sure, it was against a weak Browns defense, but he only made one or two truly errant throws on the day and he threw the deep ball better than we’ve seen in almost a decade. We should revisit this topic later in the season, but for now it doesn’t appear that Brady is near the end just yet.

But that didn’t stop King for chiming in with his two cents about the Patriots quarterback situation.

“Jimmy Garoppolo’s ready to play, and play at a high level in the New England offense,” King writes. “He might be a top 15 quarterback right now. If I’m the Patriots, I’m trying to figure a way to keep Garoppolo so he can be the quarterback of the future. And I’m trying to do it next off-season, instead of waiting till his contract expires after the 2017 season; by then he’ll have too much of a market. Who knows how long Brady lasts—it could be three years or five, no one knows—but if the Patriots feel Garoppolo is the quarterback of the future, and how can they not, they’d be silly to take a 2017 first-round pick for him.”

This will be the big debate of the offseason because Garoppolo is probably worth more than just one first round pick at this point, especially if he’s actually a top 15 quarterback. At what price does Garoppolo become tradeable? I don’t know how hard head coach Bill Belichick would have to think hard if a team offered a pair of first rounders for Garoppolo this offseason.

King notes that rookie Jacoby Brissett “is not ready to play,” which likely plays into the desire to retain Garoppolo. But we have to remember that Garoppolo didn’t look great as a rookie- he was a 58% passer his rookie preseason- before emerging in his sophomore season. The Patriots seem confident that Brissett can make a similar jump.

This is going to be a big debate until we have some clarity on Garoppolo’s future. I think he can be a good starter in the NFL, but if Brady continues to play lights out, I don’t know if it makes sense to keep Garoppolo at the franchise tag rates in 2018, 2019, and beyond until Brady retires instead of just taking the draft picks.

And speaking of draft picks, King has some kind words about the Patriots sending a 4th round pick to the Bears for TE Martellus Bennett and a 6th round pick.

The Patriots ended up packaging that 6th round pick with another 6th and 7th rounder to move up into the 5th round. That 5th round pick was subsequently flipped to the Seahawks for their 2017 4th round pick.

“So the Pats essentially traded the 127th pick in 2016, plus some low-round filler [a 6th and 7th round pick], for a pick that will be around No. 127 in 2017,” King writes. “And they got the other half of the best tight-end tandem in the league in the process; no teams come close to the dangerous combo of Rob Gronkowski and Bennett. ‘Pick your poison,’ Bennett said after catching three touchdowns from Tom Brady on Sunday. The Patriots win, again.​”

A 2016 4th, 6th, and 7th in exchange for a year of Bennett and a 2017 4th round pick. This sounds like a complete bargain.

Bennett has been the best tight end in the NFL over the first five weeks of the season and he’s loving his time in New England.

Which makes me wonder- should the Patriots sign the 29-year-old Bennett to an extension? The Patriots made a similar move when they acquired and extended the then-30-year-old Randy Moss, so why not do it again?

Bennett will be a free agent after this season and top tight ends have a much longer shelf life than wide receivers. It’s not uncommon for tight ends to post productive seasons into their mid-30s. While future Hall of Famers like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Jason Witten lead the way, others like Ben Watson, Delanie Walker, Owen Daniels Heath Miller, and Gary Barnidge have done it as well.

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The 2011 Patriots are the only team in NFL history to have two tight ends with 800+ receiving yards at the same time (Rob Gronkowski, 1327; Aaron Hernandez, 910), and the 2016 Patriots look to be heading in that direction.

Since Bennett is loving his time in New England, there should absolutely be a discussion on the table. He’s earning $5.185 million this season and the Patriots could probably sign him to a 3- or 4-year extension in a similar price range (Moss signed a 3-year extension after the 2007 season).

Bennett has already been worth his price tag by stepping up during Rob Gronkowski’s hamstring injury. It’s time to add Bennett’s name to the long list of Patriots that deserve an extension.