If Martellus Bennett leaves via free agency, the Patriots will need to replace him. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)
There’s a chance Martellus Bennett could be done with the Patriots after one season.
On Tuesday night, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Bennett will test free agency, and based on his asking price along with likely offers, it’s a real possibility he leaves the team. He also notes the two sides have a “mutually respectful” relationship, but keeping Bennett will be hard.
(It’s worth noting Bennett responded to the report on Twitter and said he hasn’t even thought about free agency.)
If Bennett were to leave New England, the Patriots will need to replace him to have someone along with Rob Gronkowski at tight end.
Here are a few potential replacements for Bennett if he were to depart.
Michael Williams — Some people forget the Patriots still have Williams on their roster. The Alabama product tore his ACL in a June practice and was on injured reserve the entire season. He played in 15 games with the team in 2015 catching three passes, but he was primarily used as a blocker. Williams is an exclusive rights free agent and seems like a good candidate to return in 2017. If he does return, the Patriots will need someone else because he’s not known for his pass catching and the team may look to lighten the load on Gronkowski.
Rob Housler — The Patriots signed Housler to a futures contract after the season. The 28-year-old has been in the league for seven seasons and played for three teams. He didn’t play this past season after being released by the Bears at the end of training camp. For his career, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and a touchdown. It remains to be seen what exactly he will be, but he will be given a chance to perform during training camp and prove what he can do.
Jack Doyle — There aren’t too many free agent tight ends, but Doyle could be a good candidate for relatively cheap money. The 26-year-old is coming off his best season with Andrew Luck as his quarterback in Indianapolis. Doyle caught 59 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns. For the first time in quite some time, the Patriots found a tight end to complement Gronkowski last season in Bennett, and it is possible Doyle could be next if Bennett leaves and the Patriots are interested.
Mychal Rivera — This is an under-the-radar tight end free agent, but he does have a connection to the Patriots and Tom Brady as they both have Don Yee as an agent. Riveria has played four seasons with the Raiders and has caught 146 passes for 1,143 yards and 10 touchdowns. He likely won’t cost much, so maybe the Patriots would take a flier on him and see what he can do.
2017 draft pick — The incoming tight end class is said to be among the best it has been in recent years, so expect the Patriots to draft one. If it is one of the first few picks the team makes, it could be viewed as the team’s tight end of the future. Some possibilities include Jake Butt, Jordan Leggett and David Njoku.