Chicago Bears trade disgruntled TE Bennett to Patriots

The Bears didn't exactly trade former Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots for a bag of old footballs, but they didn't get a whole lot more than that.

The Bears sent Bennett and one of their three sixth-round picks (204th overall) to the Patriots for their fourth-round pick (127th overall). The Bears will save the $5.185 million that Bennett would have counted against the 2016 salary cap.

Bennett could give New England quarterback Tom Brady an exceptional 1-2 tight end attack paired with perennial Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski. But it was no secret the Bears wanted him gone after a disappointing 2015.

Bennett has been wearing out his welcome since shortly after his Pro Bowl season in 2014, when he had by far the best numbers of his career: 90 receptions for 916 yards. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound eight-year veteran also had a personal best 6 TD catches.

At that point Bennett began lobbying for a new contract, even though he was just halfway through the four-year, $20.4 million deal he had signed with the Bears as an unrestricted free agent.

As a protest, Bennett boycotted the entire off-season program a year ago, even though it was the first in the coach John Fox-GM Ryan Pace regime.

Bennett, when motivated, is an above-average, all-around tight end who is an effective blocker in the run game and in pass protection and a strong runner after the catch. But he lacks speed, doesn't have great hands and is not an elusive runner after the catch, although he has tackle-breaking power.

Despite not participating in the off-season program, Bennett started impressively last season, catching 45 passes for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first eight games.

But in the final eight games, five of which he missed with a rib injury, Bennett had just 8 catches for 58 yards and no touchdowns. Bennett did not travel with the team to the first game he missed, against the Packers in Green Bay, and when asked about it the following week, he said he didn't even watch it on TV.

Even before the injury, Bennett had grown disenchanted with his role as a pass catcher in the offense, which more and more frequently required him to do the less-glamorous job of blocking.

Bennett finished the season with 53 catches for 439 yards, his lowest production since 2011. His 8.3-yard average per catch was his lowest since 2010.

As Bennett's contributions waned, the production of fellow tight end Zach Miller skyrocketed.

Over the last nine weeks, Miller caught 31 passes and was tied for fourth among all NFL tight ends with 5 TD catches and seventh with 404 receiving yards. The Bears rewarded Miller a day before they dumped Bennett with a two-year deal for $5.5 million that could be worth as much as $7.5 million with production bonuses.

At that time, Miller was asked about Bennett's situation with the team.

"However things play out with Marty is how they play out," Miller said. "That's out of my control and out of his control. He's a special player and a special person to be around. It's not up to us. However it plays out, I'm ready to fill whatever role is needed."

That role just became a lot more important.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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