While Martellus Bennett may be persona non grata with the Green Bay Packers, who cut him Wednesday and claimed he failed to disclose a medical condition, his previous team seems quite interested in having him back. That would be the New England Patriots, who claimed Bennett on waivers Thursday, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
This is a move that seemingly makes a lot of sense for the Patriots. In his lone season with New England, which came last year, Bennett caught 55 passes (on 73 targets) for 701 yards and a team-high and career-high seven touchdowns. The 30-year-old tight end has battled some injuries this year, with this recent shoulder ailment (which the team claims he didn’t previously report to them) most prominent there, but has still made 24 catches for 233 yards.
And he proved to be a valuable receiver for Tom Brady and the Patriots last season, turning into one of Brady’s preferred red-zone targets and helping the Patriots to a Super Bowl. It certainly appears worth it for New England to add another weapon, even if that could lead to future cap consequences; Bennett has talked about retiring after this season, and if he did that, the Patriots would still owe significant money on the three-year, $21 million deal he signed with Green Bay this offseason.
Bennett has been involved in plenty of interesting moments this year, from boycotting the Patriots’ White House visit to feuding with Jason Whitlock to sleeping on the floor at training camp after checking in late to blasting fantasy football, discussing President Donald Trump’s comments about protests during the national anthem, commenting on CTE and saying he’s “pretty sure” he’d retire after the season. That latest part, along with the injury controversy, may have rankled Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy, even if he won’t directly tie it to that:
Mike McCarthy would not directly connect the dots between tight end Martellus Bennett’s retirement talk and what led to his unexpected release Wednesday.
Instead, the Green Bay Packers coach called it “an injury situation.”
…”Well, I mean, you can’t deny the facts of your timeline and how everything went down,” McCarthy said Thursday. “I mean, really, to tie all that together, you’re asking me to get inside somebody else’s feelings, conversation, more on a personal level. I think this all started obviously coming out of the bye week. Everything leading up to that, I can’t really comment on it. And then we went down this injury path, and then here we are today. So, I mean, it’d be all speculation.”
McCarthy said he never had a conversation with Bennett about retirement.
Regardless of what exactly led the Packers to release Bennett, their move was surprising. And it’s now given the Patriots an opportunity to add another piece even after the trade deadlines, and do so without surrendering any assets apart from cap space. That may work out well for them and for Bennett, especially if he’s able to produce at anywhere near the level he did last season. We’ll see how it goes, but having Bennett back with the Patriots should certainly be interesting.