Well, free agency definitely seemed to be the way things were looking for lovable goofball tight end Martellus Bennett, and now it's official - NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday night while you were probably at the gym or messing up another Blue Apron recipe that Marty B is hitting the market.
#Patriots TE Martellus Bennett will test free agency. Based on his asking price & likely offers, it’s a real possibility he exits, I’m told— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2017
The #Patriots helped Martellus Bennett revive his career, and it’s a mutually respectful relationship. But keeping him in NE will be hard— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2017
Bennett chimed in and confirmed that Rap Sheet was right, too:
I haven't given free agency a ton of thought at this moment to be truly honest. I've been in MartyLand creating for @ImaginationAgcy— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 22, 2017
I haven't asked for anything either. I'm just chilling. Lol— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) February 22, 2017
After coming over in a trade from the Chicago Bears in a trade last spring, it took Bennett about two seconds to become a fan favorite all across New England with his one-of-a-kind sense of humor, and once the season started, Marty posted a 55-reception, 701-yard, 7-touchdown campaign, blocked like a beast, and gritted out a whole boatload of injuries that would've probably put quite a few guys on Injured Reserve. The man played through the season with a cracked bone in his ankle, among other things. He also rushed twice for 10 yards, and has the rather dubious honor of "Worst Spike since Tom Brady in the Tuck Rule Game" (sorry Marty, I had to):
Bennett heading to free agency to see what everyone else will pony up for his talents shouldn't really surprise anyone that's been paying attention - NESN reported in December that the Patriots had offered an extension that came out to $7,000,000.00 per year, and that they'd pick up negotiations again after the season. Apparently either that didn't happen, or the Patriots, as they do, had a line drawn in the sand and wouldn't cross it. For what it's worth, $7 million a year would've put Bennett as the fifth-highest paid Patriots player on the roster, behind only Danny Amendola, Nate Solder, Devin McCourty, and Tom Brady, according to Spotrac. As good as Martellus Bennett was in 2016, an eight-figure-per-year contract would be overpaying to the max...or, to put it another way, Miami Dolphins Free Agency 101.
Either way, this doesn't mean Bennett is gone, necessarily, but it's a smart move for him to see who wants to open up the checkbook since he'll be 30 years old in a couple weeks and this very well could be his last chance to make big bucks playing football. He definitely wouldn't be the first guy to parlay a Super Bowl run with the Patriots into a sweet free-agent contract, and he won't be the last, either.
And if/when that happens, it'll leave New England dangerously thin at tight end, so expect them to hit that position hard in free agency or the draft - or both.