9:04am: There are some around the NFL who doubt that a Bennett trade will happen, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter links), who says the Bears would likely release the tight end if they can’t find a trade partner. Biggs adds that Bennett “increasingly frustrated coaches and teammates” during the 2015 season, making his looming departure from Chicago seem somewhat inevitable.
8:11am: The Bears are working with agent Kennard McGuire, the agent for tight end Martellus Bennett, to find a trade that would send Bennett to an “agreeable landing spot,” reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). If the two parties can figure something out, Chicago would likely consummate a deal at the start of the 2016 league year next week, or shortly thereafter.
Bennett, who will turn 29 next Thursday, was slowed by injuries in 2015, but still managed to haul in 53 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. Previously, Bennett established new career-highs across the board in 2014 with 90 receptions, 916 yards, and six TDs, earning his first Pro Bowl nod.
In the wake of that Pro Bowl season, Bennett sought a raise and an extension, skipping the Bears’ voluntary OTAs last spring. However, Chicago, having recently hired a new head coach and GM, was unwilling to work out a new deal at that point, and it appears the team now prefers a trade to an extension.
Bennett has one year left on his current contract, and is currently set to earn a base salary of $5.085MM in 2016, with a cap hit of $6.31MM. If a team were to trade for the veteran tight end, that club would be responsible for his salary and his $100K workout bonus, leaving $1.125MM in dead money on the Bears’ cap. It’s also possible a contract extension would be part of any deal, perhaps reducing that cap hit for 2016 and giving Bennett a larger guarantee up front.
The emergence of tight end Zach Miller gives the Bears another option at the position in the event that they move Bennett. Miller had a career year in 2015, recording 34 receptions for 439 yards and five touchdowns. Although he’s a free agent, there’s a decent chance Miller will be back with the Bears, who have plenty of cap space at their disposal to sign him to a new deal.
As for Bennett’s potential destinations, there are a handful of teams that could be decent fits. One club in the market for tight end help is in Baltimore, where the Ravens have two tight ends with health concerns (Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore) and one who is facing a 10-game suspension (Nick Boyle). Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was Chicago’s head coach during Bennett’s best season in 2014.
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