The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be busy in free agency this season. The question is just how busy, and at which positions. We’ve suggested the Bucs should target Terrelle Pryor, and DeSean Jackson has been speculatively linked to them as well. Here’s another player they could target: tight end Martellus Bennett.
Usually, players of his quality re-sign with their teams, but not so Bennett: he’ll test free agency, and he’ll likely be too expensive for the New England Patriots to keep, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
#Patriots TE Martellus Bennett will test free agency. Based on his asking price & likely offers, it’s a real possibility he exits, I’m told— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2017
Bennett started his career with the Dallas Cowboys as mostly a blocking tight end with few receiving targets, but has morphed into an all-around offensive weapon who has put up over 700 yards in three of his last four season (the other season was limited by injury). He’s a reliable intermediate tight end who can also be a force in the running game — and that versatility is what the Bucs lack at tight end right now.
The Bucs do have Cameron Brate as a reliable receiving tight end, but he doesn’t do all that much for them as a run-blocker, and is not the most explosive tight end around. Bennett’s a bit more of a deep threat, though marginally so, but his biggest value would come in replacing most of Luke Stocker’s job, who adds nothing as a receiver but does do a good job as a blocker. That’s the kind of versatility that gives defenses fits.
The downside of Bennett: he’s likely to come at a very high price. The top contracts at the position average around $9 million per year, and there’s no reason why Bennett shouldn’t get that kind of money. The Bucs can afford to pay him that kind of money — but whether they’ll want to is another question entirely, especially given their extremely limited interest in top-tier free agents under general manager Jason Licht.