Martellus Bennett’s Future with Chicago Bears Still a Mystery
When Ryan Pace addressed the media at the scouting combine, we learned a lot about where the team stands with Alshon Jeffery. Pace gave plenty of insight into the team’s desire to sign him and keep him in Chicago. When Pace addressed the future of Martellus Bennett, it was quite the opposite. Pace told reporters very little into the franchise’s future plans with the moody tight end.
"We recognize he’s a talented, well-rounded tight end. Again, he’s under contract, so right now our focus is on guys who are out of contract. You can categorize then in two different areas, and he’s in the other area right now."
Those quotes give you two pieces of information. The first is that Bennett will not be a cap casualty. The Bears have plenty of space to operate under the cap this year anyway, so they weren’t desperate to squeeze out a few more pennies. After the release of Jermon Bushrod, there was very little reason to drop Bennett, and the Bears clearly are not going to do so, at least not yet.
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Martellus Bennett is on Pace’s back burner. If he could have locked Zach Miller down to a reasonable deal he probably would have let Bennett go, but Miller is looking for a payday and if he receives one, Pace needs to be careful about what he’s going to do at tight end. He doesn’t want to leave the cupboard bare if Miller finds a fat contract with another team.
Pace is going to focus on getting Jeffery and a couple other of his veterans signed before they are eligible to hit free agency. He’s then going to focus on what free agents he can bring into the squad to make the team more competitive in 2016 and then of course, he will hone in on the draft. There are a lot of steps that need to take place before Pace even looks in the direction of Bennett.
The second piece of information that you can get from Pace’s comments is that, at this point, he really doesn’t know what Bennett’s future is with the club. He didn’t make one comment that makes you think the Bears have any type of strong interest in keeping Bennett here, but he also made no statement that he’s going to be elsewhere this upcoming season either.
Pace is going to keep his focus exactly where it needs to be and add the players to the roster that he sees fit. If he can get the tight end situation in good shape, there’s a good chance he will see what type of market there is for Bennett. If Miller leaves, then he’s going to rely on Bennett to give the Bears a big year in his contract year so he can get paid to play elsewhere in 2017.
Keep in mind the Bears need to be very careful with this portion of the offense for next season. Cutler always likes having a safety valve that he can hit if his primary option wasn’t open. Brandon Marshall has been that player for Cutler. Matt Forte has been that player. Martellus Bennett has been that player. Cutler likes to utilize a possession receiver near the line of scrimmage to pick up four to six yards. Eddie Royal could be that player but he did nothing for the Bears in 2015. Jeremy Langford might be that player, but we don’t know that yet. Miller could be that player but he might be gone, and even if he stays, he has a major history of injuries. The Bears don’t want to leave Cutler naked so they will make certain that a player like that is on the roster and ready to contribute.
This isn’t Pace’s top priority at this junction but it will be soon. It’s clear at this point that no decision on Bennett is going to be made until there is one on Zach Miller. Once that domino falls we might finally have some idea if Bennett will be a Chicago Bear in 2016.
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Bill Zimmerman is an editor and featured writer for FanSided‘s BearGogglesOn. Like his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter for more news and interaction.