Patriots

Why the Martellus Bennett-Patriots reunion made too much sense

FOXBORO -- It just made too much sense. 

Because the Patriots needed another tight end since Dwayne Allen's stay in New England hasn't worked out as planned. Because it opens up the Patriots playbook when there are two threats at that position. And because Rob Gronkowski's injury history is what it is, and depth is important. 

It just so happened that the player who filled that role last season became available to do the same in 2017, and the Patriots jumped at the chance to bring him back to New England.

The Patriots put in a claim for tight end Martellus Bennett after he was waived by the Packers, and they got the Harry Potter-loving, 6-foot-6, 275-pounder, according to ESPN. The team released defensive lineman Geneo Grissom, who still has practice-squad eligibility, to make room for Bennett. 

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There are questions surrounding Bennett as he makes his way back to the team that he helped to win a Super Bowl last season. First and foremost, is he healthy? He was released with a failure to disclose a medical condition designation. He did not play in Week 9 due to a shoulder injury. And does he even want to play? He's already announced that he would like to retire after this season. Was that him venting frustration after the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers for the season? Or is he seriously contemplating the end of his career?

Even with those question marks surrounding him, it was the logical move for the Patriots to put in a claim on Bennett. 

The Fit: The Patriots have received very little from their backup tight ends in 2017. Allen does not have a catch this season, and he has not been targeted since a Week 4 loss to the Panthers. He has played 46 combined snaps in New England's last three games while Gronkowski has played all but five in that span (220). Though Gronkowski said on Thursday that he's feeling fresh coming off of the bye week, he seemed to acknowledge after a Week 8 win over the Chargers that he was feeling fatigued. Bennett's understanding of the system should be enough to make him the immediate No. 2 option at tight end if healthy. Undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister has had brief spurts of productivity this season, but he has played 40 total snaps this season, including just six in the last three games.

Trust Factor: Perhaps more important than Bennett's understanding of the Patriots offense is the trust level he established with Tom Brady during their one season together. Bennett caught 24 passes for 233 yards through seven games with Green Bay. Through his first seven weeks with the Patriots last season, he'd caught 27 passes for 367 yards, and he finished with 66 grabs for 799 yards (including playoffs). And don't forget: Bennett was targeted by Brady for the potential game-winning pass in overtime of Super Bowl LI. It went incomplete, but the fact that Brady was willing to look Bennett's way in that moment was telling. 

The Money: Bennett is a cost-effective move at a critical position for the Patriots. He will count a max of $723,529 against the cap this season, which is a combination of his remaining base salary ($423, 529) and the max in per-game roster bonuses that he could receiver ($300,000). The Patriots have over $4 million in cap space remaining. Bennett has $13 million remaining for 2018 and 2019 on his contract, but it is not guaranteed.

The Personality: Were there occasional eye-rolls in the locker room when Bennett was around? Did the loud Harry Potter music blaring from a speaker at his locker coax a double-take or two from his teammates? Yes and yes. But he was widely regarded as a fun presence that kept things light. His willingness to play through injury when the team needed him -- particularly after Rob Gronkowski underwent season-ending back surgery -- quickly earned him the respect of his new teammates. "I don’t have a word to describe his personality but I can guarantee that every person in that locker room loves Marty," Dont'a Hightower said last season. "The emotion and excitement that he brings in here is definitely much needed on a day-to-day basis because working here isn’t always the easiest thing or comfortable thing. So having guys in the locker room like that to make you smile and kind of get you through the day really helps."