Chicago Bears put disenchanted TE Bennett on the trading block
To the surprise of no one familiar with his me-first attitude, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett has officially become persona non grata at Halas Hall and is on the NFL trading block.
The Bears are working with Bennett's agent, Kennard McGuire, to find a destination for the 6-foot-6, 273-pound player, who is an effective receiver and productive blocker when motivated.
A player of Bennett's ability would be expected to bring at least a mid-round draft pick in return. But knowing the Bears want to get rid of him likely will diminish what the Bears can expect in return, much like last year when they received next to nothing for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the latest deterioration involving the eight-year veteran and the Bears.
Bennett played well enough to be voted to the Pro Bowl after his second season with the Bears in 2014, when he posted career-best totals of 90 catches, 916 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Though he was just halfway through the $20.4 million four-year deal he signed as an unrestricted free agent before the 2013 season, Bennett already was angling for a new contract.
When it wasn't forthcoming, he pouted and complained. It started with last year's off-season program, which Bennett boycotted, a questionable tactic considering it was the first year of new coach John Fox's regime.
Bennett's production and his all-around ability as a pass catcher and blocker in an era of specialized tight ends could make him attractive to several teams. One of those teams could be the Seattle Seahawks, where Bennett's older brother Michael is a defensive end and one of their key performers.
Injuries and attitude saw Bennett's production plummet in 2015 to 53 catches, 439 yards and 3 touchdowns, as he was used more frequently, to his dismay, as a run-blocker and pass protector. He missed Game 11 at Green Bay, chose not to travel with the team and later said he didn't even watch the game on TV.
Bennett returned to start Game 12 and then missed the last four games with a rib injury that many believe wasn't that serious.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace dismissed questions about Bennett last week at the NFL's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"I talked to him right at the end of the season," Pace said. "I haven't talked to him recently. Really with him, he's under contract. We have a lot of players that aren't under contract, so that's where our focus is right now."
Later Pace was asked about Bennett's fit with the team.
"We recognize he's a talented, well-rounded tight end," the Bears GM said. "Again, he's under contract, so right now our focus is on guys who are out of contract."
While Bennett was complaining and may have been malingering last year, backup tight end Zach Miller flourished in his absence with a career year. Miller caught 34 passes for 439 yards, a 12.9-yard average per catch and 5 touchdowns, all personal bests. Miller also played through a rib injury without missing a game.
The previously injury-prone Miller is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, along with 19 other teammates, and the Bears have interest in re-signing him. That will only increase if they are able to deal Bennett to another team.
"We like Zach," Pace said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I don't want to go through every one of our UFAs, but he's a guy we'd want back, and we're negotiating with him."
Aside from Bennett and Miller, the other tight ends on the Bears' 53-man roster are journeyman Rob Housler and rookie Khari Lee, who each had 1 catch last season.
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