Pretty much the moment news came on Wednesday that the Green Bay Packers released Martellus Bennett just months after signing him to a free-agent contract, NFL Twitter had Bennett back in Foxborough, Mass. as a member of the Patriots.
Of course, since we’re after the league’s trade deadline, all players go through the waiver process (pre-trade deadline, vested veterans become free agents the moment they’re released), and while a Bennett-Patriots reunion made sense, it wasn’t a certainty that New England would get him even if it put in a claim.
But guess what?
There were 26 teams ahead of the Patriots currently in the waiver-claim order (the team with the worst record gets priority, with the team with the best record last in the order) including all of the other AFC teams in playoff contention, and none of those teams put in a claim on Bennett, allowing him to drop into the Patriots’ hands.
Some teams couldn’t afford to take on the remainder of Bennett’s contract, but according to the updated salary cap report made available daily by the NFL Players Association, the Buffalo Bills have over $12.6 million in cap space; the Jacksonville Jaguars have $27 million. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs are $2.9 million and $3.5 million, respectively, under the max cap.
At any rate, Bennett is back with the Patriots. While he is dealing with a shoulder injury – he did not play last week because of it, and was not slated to play Sunday, before he was released – when he’s able to return it would be a surprise if he doesn’t have an impact with New England.
The Patriots are 6-2 coming off their bye week, and have the top-ranked offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game and are seventh in scoring, at 27 points per game.
Bennett quickly picked up the Patriots’ offense last year (not a given, even for veteran players), and had 55 catches for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns during the regular season, adding 11 more catches in the postseason. He won his first Super Bowl ring with the club, and was also a fan and media favorite, dancing with cheerleader pompoms after the team’s AFC title game win, and professing his love for bacon.
Bennett is due $423,500 of his $900,000 base salary for this season; next year, his base is slated to jump to $3.6 million. However, in a recent but now-deleted Instagram post, Bennett said this would likely be his last season in the NFL.
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