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Ian Rapoport: Patriots are making TE Martellus Bennett an “offseason priority”

Apparently, New England plans to keep the tight end long-term.

In March, the New England Patriots acquired veteran tight end Martellus Bennett via trade from the Chicago Bears. The Patriots sent a fourth round 2016 draft choice to Chicago in exchange for Bennett’s services and a sixth round selection.

Since arriving in Foxboro, Bennett has established himself as a key member of New England’s offensive attack. In his first nine games for the Patriots he has caught 38 passes for 504 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.

Naturally, the 29-year old will be a highly coveted player when he enters unrestricted free agency next offseason. However, according to Ian Rapoport, the team will try to keep Bennett:

From trash to treasure: #Patriots are making TE Martellus Bennett an offseason priority, sources say & want to lock him up for the future.

Bennett has fit in nicely with the Patriots — both on and off the field — and has given the team a second productive option at tight end behind Rob Gronkowski. As such, he has increased his open market value and in turn allowed New England to use its two tight end package to an extent it has not been used since the day of the Gronkowski-Hernandez tight end.

At current projections, the Patriots will be among the teams with the most salary cap space entering 2017. Re-signing Bennett should therefore be able — if the two sides are able to find a common ground during negotiations.