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2017 NFL Free Agency: Tampering pushes TE Martellus Bennett out of price range, but could earn the Patriots a 3rd round draft pick

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The Patriots might lose a tight end, but they could earn a 2018 3rd round draft pick.

The New England Patriots informed TE Martellus Bennett that they would be interested in bringing him back in 2017, so long as Bennett played under a contract suitable to the Patriots cap situation.

The Patriots can kiss that scenario good bye as the NFL’s tampering period has revealed Bennett’s value on the open market.

Bennett is looking at deals in the $9 million per season range, which matches the annual average of Patriots All Pro TE Rob Gronkowski. There’s no way that the Patriots would sign Bennett to a deal that matches Gronkowski, and there’s little reason to believe that Bennett would leave a considerable amount of money on the table to remain in New England.

Teams interested in Bennett include the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders, according to the Globe’s Ben Volin, and there is plenty of money to go around for Bennett to receive that $9 million milestone.

Of course not all is lost for the Patriots. If Bennett signs a deal valued at $9 million or more per season, the Patriots would likely receive a 3rd round compensatory pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Patriots acquired Bennett for a 2016 4th round pick, so receiving a Super Bowl season and a 2018 3rd round pick is a pretty quality return on investment by the New England front office.