With less than a week to go until the start of free agency, the New England Patriots have started to get rid off some of the “dead weight” that currently is on their roster. One player that apparently falls under that category is tight end Martellus Bennett, who New England opted to part ways with yesterday. The veteran, coming off a stint on injured reserve, was on the Patriots' books with $6.19 million.
Let's take a closer look at what letting Bennett go means for the Patriots.
New England saves a lot of cap space but creates no dead money
As noted above, Bennett hit the Patriots' 2018 salary cap with $6.19 million – money that is now off the books for net savings of roughly $5.71 million (another player is taking his place on the top-51 contracts on a which a team's salary cap number is based during the offseason). What stands out about the financial aspect of the release is that New England does not bear the burden of dead money, which falls on the team that released him in November 2017, the Green Bay Packers.
There are not a lot of obvious cap casualties left
Bennett was one of multiple players identified as potentially being let go for salary cap purposes before the new league year starts on March 14. With him, Alan Branch (contract option will not get picked up) and David Harris (retirement) all gone, only a handful of players remain as options to be cut to create substantially more cap space. New England could also add to its current number of $23.37 million by extending or restructuring the contracts of cost-intensive players.
Bennett does not count for the compensatory draft pick formula
When the soon-to-be 31-year old left the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent last offseason, he was included in the league's free agency compensation formula. However, this will not be the case in 2018: With the Patriots opting to release Bennett, he will not be part of the calculations impact next year's draft. Only players to hit the open market and leave because their contracts expired or option clauses were not exercised are able to net a team extra draft choices.
The release gives no direct indication on Rob Gronkowski's status
With the NFL's best tight end no safe bet to return next season, keeping the position depth chart as deep as possible seems like the best course of action for New England. Thus, releasing Bennett – who has experience and past production in the system – could be seen as a positive sign. However, we do not know all of the Patriots' intentions behind the transactions: Do they create cap space to go after another tight end? Or do they feel comfortable Gronkowski will return? Everything seems possible at this point.
New England needs more tight end depth
Even if Gronkowski returns next season, the Patriots are likely in the market for additional bodies at the tight end position. Currently, the team has only four players under contract: Gronkowski, potential cap casualty Dwayne Allen (his release would create net savings of $4.45 million), Jacob Hollister and Will Tye. Signing some competition for the backup spots behind Gronkowski will likely be on the Patriots' offseason bucket list.