For the second year in a row, the Chicago Bears made a splash at the beginning of free agency by adding a much needed offensive weapon. Former New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett was brought in on a four-year deal worth around $20 million.
Last season the Bears struggled to get any kind of production from the tight end position. Kellen Davis had an abysmal season with only 19 receptions and two touchdowns. He seemed to have more drops than productive plays.
Bennett brings stability to a position the Bears have not had in some time. Even when Greg Olson was on the roster he was not the complete package like Bennett. At 6'7'', 248 pounds, Bennett is not only a large athletic target for Jay Cutler to throw to but is an impact blocker in the running game.
Last season was Bennett's best offensive year of his career. He had 55 receptions, just more than 600 yards and five touchdowns while playing all 16 games.
Those receptions instantly help two guys on the Bears' roster; Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Marshall set a franchise record with 118 receptions but was targeted way too much by Cutler mostly out of necessity.
Like mentioned earlier, Kellen Davis was an epic disaster, Earl Bennett was hit or miss, Alshon Jeffery was oft injured and Devin Hester was still the same undeveloped receiver. When you needed a key catch, Marshall was the only guy to go to.
LM: Jay on Bennett: “He’s explosive in the passing game and he’s also a really good blocker, and I think that’s what sets him apart."— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 13, 2013
Bennett brings instant stability on third down and in the red zone. He frees up Marshall to work longer routes and Jeffery to be more of a home run hitter. His size and athleticism is a matchup nightmare for teams and he gives Cutler comfort when releasing an erratic throw every now and then.
It's more than just catching the football with Bennett. His consistency in run blocking enhances Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Last year the Bears did not see the investment they put into the two running backs and Bennett's signing helps make them better players.
The Bears had a choice of Bennett or Jared Cook on the open market and they chose Bennett for his versatility. Cook is a good tight end but he can not be moved around like Bennett can. Expect to see Bennett line up inside, outside the numbers and even in the backfield. New Head Coach Marc Trestman will have fun getting creative with his new toy.
How many catches will Martellus Bennett have next year?
At the end of the day Bennett gave the Bears what they needed the most; more offensive relevance. In order to keep up in the division and the league, the Bears need to be more explosive and reliant on their offense.
Bennett's signing with the Bears means they take one more step towards escaping offensive futility.