Much has been made of the shortcomings that have befallen Patriots players on the last year of their contracts.
Jamie Collins was losing snaps to rookie Elandon Roberts before he was dealt to the Browns. Logan Ryan has seen his playing time vary from week to week as the team experiements with its No. 2 corner role. Jabaal Sheard played just 16 snaps against the Seahawks then didn't even make the trip to this weekend's game against San Francisco.
Some players can find it dificult to wrestle with an uncertain future, but one who has thrived on the prospect of the unknown has been Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett. Like linebacker Dont'a Hightower, he has handled the push for a new deal with aplomb.
Bennett has played through a nagging ankle injury since having his leg twisted awkwardly in a three-touchdown performance against the Browns in Week 5. Despite any physical limitations, he has managed to perform as one of his team's most consistent players on a weekly basis.
As a blocker, he's taken on some of the game's top pass-rushers one-on-one at the line of scrimmage and he's forcefully cleared space in the running game. As a receiver, he's reeled in 38 passes for 504 yards and four scores total, and he's had some of his best games with Rob Gronkowski either limited or out. In Week 2 (Gronkowski out with a hamstring issue), Week 4 (Gronkowski limited as he returned from his hamstring injury) and Week 10 (Gronkowski not himself after suffering a chest injury), Bennett posted 100-yard performances.
Not only has Bennett provided the Patriots with the ability to use hard-to-handle two-tight-end sets, he's given them an invaluable measure of insurance for Gronkowski, who has been ruled out for this weekend's game against San Francisco.
The marriage between the Patriots and Bennett has worked out so well -- both on the field and in the locker room -- that the club will make re-signing Bennett an offseason priority, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
From trash to treasure: #Patriots are making TE Martellus Bennett an offseason priority, sources say & want to lock him up for the future.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 20, 2016
Discarded by one of the worst teams, Martellus Bennett has been everything the #Pats wanted. He’s battled thru injuries. Will be rewarded— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 20, 2016
The timing of the report is eyebrow-raising given the team just kept one of its big-name players looking for a new contract at home for the weekend. The message, it would seem, is that if you do all you're asked, you'll be taken care of.