The Chicago Bears and star tight end Martellus Bennett are headed for a divorce. Per reports, the team has already begun looking for potential trade partners with just a week before the free agency period opens. Already wanting out as recently as last season, Bennett could be a tough player to move due to a hefty $5 million price tag sitting on the books for 2016.
Bears and Martellus Bennett’s agent, Kennard McGuire, are working together to trade the tight end to an agreeable landing spot, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2016
Bennett may not be the most attractive option at first glance, as he was a far cry away from his career 2014 season a year ago. In 2014 Bennett was on top of his game and a true difference-maker for Chicago’s passing game, hauling in 90 balls for 916 receiving yards and six scores. Bennett saw his numbers drop in 2015, however, as the 28-year old missed five games due to injury and ended what could be his final season with the Bears with just 53 catches for 439 receiving yards and three scores.
Had Bennett finished 2015 healthy and not missed any time, he probably would have had a decent chance to live up to expectations. He wasn’t the only Bears offensive player to disappoint, either, as star #1 receiver Ashon Jeffery missed ample time due to lower leg injuries and rookie receiver Kevin White never played a down in his first year due to a shin issue.
Bennett may not have had the best closing season to his time in Chicago, but he still could provide value in the right situation. A more than capable blocker, Bennett is also a reliable possession receiver who can win in the red-zone due to elite size and a good catch radius. The big question is, what team is a tight end away from doing serious damage in the NFL and will they pay what is left on his contract? There are several teams that could (or should) consider the move – especially with a weak free agency crop and little to get excited about in the draft:
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is the perfect example of a team that certainly could use a talent upgrade at tight end, but isn’t necessarily going to trade for a pricey option to get it. This is probably an impossible destination due to the Packers being a division rival, but Bennett certainly brings more to the table than current starter Richard Rodgers.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams just released Jared Cook due to a fat salary, so it’s tough to see them wanting to trade for another expensive tight end. Bennett is way more reliable than Cook and would help as a blocker, as well, so it actually wouldn’t be a bad move. Jeff Fisher would be wise to get next year’s quarterback – whoever that may be – a safety net for the middle of the field and red-zone.
Houston just let the soft-handed Garrett Graham go, leaving them with Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz as their top options at tight end. Griffin is a competent pass-catcher and Fidorowicz certainly has upside, but neither are complete options and neither offer the stability Bennett could. The Texans could dump one and a mid-to-late round pick to make a pretty big upgrade.
New York Jets
Jace Amaro doesn’t seem like he’s long for the pros and Jeff Cumberland is a pedestrian plodder. The Jets aren’t in dire need of an elite pass-catching tight end thanks to all that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker can do, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Bennett would at the very worst serve as a huge talent upgrade and give them an extra presence in the red-zone.
Heath Miller just retired, so the Steelers naturally have to be wondering if youngster Jesse James can handle the starting gig. It’s fair to argue he can’t, so trading for Bennett would be a wise move. That’d at least athletically speaking actually be an upgrade over Miller, while Bennett’s solid blocking could also help a Steelers team that likes to stay balanced by running the football.
Vernon Davis was a waste and Owen Daniels is a pedestrian option, so perhaps Denver considers quickly upgrading tight end in the post-Peyton Manning era. They didn’t want to pay Julius Thomas big money when he was a free agent, though, so it’s far to assume they may not want to pay Bennett’s salary, either.
Oakland has a very nice core of young talent, but their one weakness on offense remains tight end. Mychal Rivera is a mere possession type and has not exhibited the same red-zone or blocking ability Bennett has. Bennett could fit in nicely as the third guy in the pecking order behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
The Falcons haven’t had a suitable tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired and it shouldn’t shock anyone that they haven’t been back to the playoffs during that time. Bennett could really open up the offense near the goal-line and would give Matt Ryan an extra big body to target over the middle of the field. Atlanta needs passing weapons more than ever with the recent release of Roddy White, as well.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners traded away Vernon Davis last year and quickly found out they do not have a suitable option to replace him. Trading for Bennett to take over as the full-time starting tight end wouldn’t be a bad trade for new head coach Chip Kelly. Then again, if he can grab the younger (and more athletic) Coby Fleener in free agency, Kelly will probably do that instead.
Last and possibly least are the Cardinals, who do not have a threatening tight end. Troy Niklas is young and full of promise, but he hasn’t developed as had hoped and Darren Fells is a pedestrian journeyman type. Bennett would give Arizona a rock solid tight end that could add a whole new dimension to one of the best passing games in the league. The one caveat? Arizona doesn’t really use tight ends very much.
Got a better idea as to where Martellus Bennett could be traded? Tell us in the comments below!