This week, under bizarre circumstances, the Green Bay Packers cut tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, the team he played for last season, winning the Super Bowl along the way. After that historic comeback, Bennett left to go get paid in free agency, and the Pats made a series of offseason moves that mostly did not work out as well as they had hoped. Now they are back together for the second half of the season and the playoffs, and it is the kind of reunion that has great potential.
The Patriots need an alternative target to Rob Gronkowski, especially now with Chris Hogan injured. A year that began with aspirations of 19-0 (at least for fans and for members of the Boston Sports Media) has been ravaged by injuries and less than ideal to poor fits of newly acquired players, but because this is a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady and coached by Bill Belichick, they are 6-2 all the same. But with Julian Edelman out for the season, Hogan currently out, Danny Amendola always a potential injury concern, and Dwayne Allen being a disaster, the Patriots really needed another competent player who knows the offense and has familiarity with Brady.
Even before Bennett’s issues with the Green Bay medical staff became public, and even before he said he planned to retire after the season, his efforts in the second half of the season would have been in vain. Like the Patriots, the Packers came into the year with high aspirations, but it all ended the moment Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Brett Hundley is no Jimmy Garoppolo, and his presence as the Packers’ starting QB for the rest of the season both sank the Packers’ Super Bowl chances, and–along with Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Jay Cutler, and C.J. Beathard–provides an exhibit of a gainfully employed awful quarterback that can be submitted as evidence in Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case.
The football situation in Green Bay got very depressing very fast, and I cannot blame a veteran tight end who got a taste of excellent football last season for wanting out. The Packers are going to try and get back the bonus money they gave Bennett, but for him, the chance to play for a real football team again might just be worth it.
Martellus Bennett’s reunion with the Pats reminds me of their reunion with LeGarrette Blount in 2014. Blount had been with the Patriots the year before, but signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency. When it became clear that Le’Veon Bell was the guy getting all the carries in Pittsburgh, Blount asked to be released. Belichick brought Blount back as a low-risk pickup in the middle of the season, and together they won the Super Bowl that year. When Blount signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this past offfseason, I half expected Blount to get released and return to New England once again, but right now the Eagles are the only team with fewer losses than the Pats, so he must be happy where he is.
Like the Blount acquisition, Belichick has nothing to lose by bringing in a veteran who already knows the playbook. If he is a problem, the Patriots can cut him and keep going, and if it works, they could be right where they were a year ago. I would still like to see them add bodies on the defensive side of the ball, but the league as a whole is so mediocre, it might not matter.