HOUSTON -- Among the many things Martellus Bennett discussed at his Opening Night were his former teams. Reporters from the various cities were there and they asked about his past stops, so he answered.
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Mentally, he wasn’t in the right place to enjoy Dallas. He loved Jerry Jones and countless teammates, but the situation “wasn’t a good fit.” The Giants he adored, especially the team’s kitchen food, which was “so delicious” and a legitimate selling point when he signed. The Bears brought not team success, but individual numbers. Though he plans on living in Chicago the rest of his life, he admitted he became “the disgruntled athlete.”
It was a time of genuine reflection and reminiscence, but it also put an elephant in a room that already had a Kel Mitchell and PFT Commenter running around it: What might he say next year about New England?
Super Bowl LI is the final game of Bennett’s contract. After that, he’ll be a free agent and could turn one of the best seasons of his career into a payday somewhere else.
The fact that he held out in Chicago before the 2015 shows that he, as every player should, places a priority on maximizing his earnings. He reportedly turned down an extension with the Patriots worth $7 million annually prior to the season. Though a longterm stay in New England shouldn’t be ruled out -- especially if the Patriots have questions about Rob Gronkowski’s ability to play 16 games a season -- Bennett knows this week could be his last with the Pats.
“This was the first real week of thinking about it. Everything’s coming to an end, but it’s a glorious end to a movie,” he said. “The climax couldn’t be any better. You think about it, but that would make this week a little more special because it could be the last one with this group of guys, so just enjoy every single moment and think about what we’ve been through to get to where we are as a team and an organization is awesome.”
Bennett was asked by Mike Giardi whether he would be OK with staying under the franchise tag.
“Sure,” Bennett replied. “All my dollars would be guaranteed.”
Bennett came to New England with questions as to why someone with his talent was on his fourth team at age 29. He’s been on his best behavior this year, becoming a fan favorite and media magnet by providing a bunch of receiving yards (701), touchdowns (seven) and interesting analogies.
Between that and his ability to play the full season (he missed the final five games in 2015 with a rib injury), Bennet’s stock is probably higher than it was when it cost just a fifth-round pick to get him along with a sixth-rounder. Whether that stock makes his next deal bigger than the Patriots are willing to spend remains to be seen.
So Bennett could have the perfect one-and-done like Darrelle Revis did in 2014, or his first and potentially only season in New England could end in unfinished business. Would either make him more at peace with leaving?
“I don’t know what my peace is like until that moment in time,” he said. “Eckhart Tolle: ‘The Power of Now.’”