The New England Patriots, according to cap guru Miguel Benzan, are currently sitting on $14.1 million of salary cap space – a solid amount to work with but clearly not enough to ensure that all of the the team's upcoming free agents will be brought back. As a result, the team is expected to make some cost-reducing moves before the new league year officially starts on March 14.
One of the possible transactions to create additional cap space would be releasing tight end Martellus Bennett. No matter its outcome and contradicting earlier thoughts on retirement, however, Bennett does want to continue playing according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Despite publicly contemplating retirement last season, #Patriots TE Martellus Bennett does want to continue playing, I’m told. He’s due a $2M roster bonus on March 14, so New England has a decision… but his $6.2M cap hit isn’t bad.
Letting Bennett go would result in net salary cap savings of $5.7 million for the Patriots – a sizeable sum considering that a) the soon-to-be 31-year old is coming off a season he ended on injured reserve, and b) has openly mulled retirement in the past. A decision will have to be made soon by the team as the veteran is due to receive a $2.0 million roster bonus on March 14.
New England's decision will be closely tied to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was non-committal when asked about his future immediately after the Super Bowl. If the 28-year old indeed opts to retire, having Bennett around would soften the blow a bit. It would therefore not be a surprise if a decision by Gronkowski is made before the start of free agency; before Bennett's roster bonus has to be paid.