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Patriots release tight end Martellus Bennett, free up $5.7 million in cap space

A potentially positive sign for Rob Gronkowski.

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

One week before it officially opens, the New England Patriots are officially getting ready for free agency. After reportedly declining to pick up defensive tackle Alan Branch's contract option yesterday and creating $2.67 million in additional salary cap space, the team is making another transaction today, resulting in additional cap money freed up.

As first reported by ESPN's Field Yates and since confirmed by the league's transaction wire, the team has informed tight end Martellus Bennett of his release:

More Bennett brothers news today: the Patriots are releasing TE Martellus Bennett, per league source.

Seeing the Patriots let Bennett go is no surprise. After all, he was the most obvious cap casualty on New England's current roster. Cutting the soon-to-be 31-year old now frees up an additional $5.7 million while not creating any dead money: the Green Bay Packers, who signed Bennett away from the Patriots during the 2017 offseason, are still on the hook for his contract's guaranteed money.

Bennett was on his second stint in New England after winning a Super Bowl with the team in 2016. Following his release by the Packers in November, the team claimed him off waivers. However, the veteran struggled with injuries and as a result appeared in only two games for the the Patriots before being placed on season-ending injured reserve a mere 18 days after re-joining his former team.

With Bennett gone, New England now has four tight ends under contract: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye. The team's new cap number – per's Miguel Benzan is $23.29 million.