The New England Patriots made a pair of big moves yesterday when the team opted to place tight end Martellus Bennett and special teamer Nate Ebner on injured reserve. Bennett, who rejoined the Patriots not even three months ago, has been dealing with shoulder and hamstring issues, while Ebner hurt his knee during Sunday's victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Let's dig a little deeper to find out what the two moves mean for New England.
Bennett and Ebner going to I.R. creates two open roster spots
Placing the two veterans on injured reserve creates two open spots on the Patriots' active 53-man roster. The team has multiple options to fill the voids but as things stand right now, practice squad promotions appear to be the most logical course of action: New England could opt to bring up tight end Will Tye to help fill Bennett's spot and defensive edge Geneo Grissom in place of Ebner.
New England still has good tight end depth
As noted above, Will Tye is an additional layer of depth at the Patriots' tight end position, giving the team a third option behind Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, league's best player at his position, is currently joined on the roster by two other solid options: Dwayne Allen, who has come along quite well after a slow start to his first season in New England, and rookie Jacob Hollister. All in all, the team has sufficient depth.
The Patriots will have a decision to make in 2018 regarding Bennett
When New England claimed Bennett off waivers after he was released by the Green Bay Packers, the team inherited his current contract. And while Bennett hurt the Patriots' salary cap with not even $750,000 this season, his number spikes to $6.4 million next year. Consequently, the team will have to make a decision: Will it keep Bennett, coming off a season-ending injury? Will it restructure the deal? Or will it simply let him go as the contract has no guarantees left?
Depth special teamers will see an increased role
As our very own Rich Hill broke down yesterday, the Patriots will not count on one player to replace Ebner on special teams. Against the Dolphins, Jordan Richards, Jonathan Jones and Marquis Flowers have all seen different responsibilities with the veteran out. Expect this to continue moving forward as it takes a team approach to fill the void created by the 28-year old's absence.
The Patriots will gain $264,000 in salary cap space
With Bennett and Ebner being placed on injured reserve, the Patriots will receive salary cap credit. According to the number one source for all things salary cap – patscap.com –, New England will gain $225,000 from Bennett and an additional $39,000 from Ebner missing out his game day roster bonuses.
New England's injured reserve list adds two more big names
The Patriots have some serious talent on their injured reserve list at the moment – on offense, defense and in the kicking game. All in all, New England's injury list looks as follows:
Furthermore, the Patriots have five players on non-football injury lists in Harvey Langi, Andrew Jelks, Antonio Garcia, Chase Farris and Keionta Davis. Of all the players listed here, only two are realistic options to come back via the lone remaining IR-return designation: Mitchell and Valentine, although neither returned to practice just yet.