This week, in the third installment of the New York Giants Free Agency Series, we take a look at tight end Martellus Bennett.
This is the third installment of our series on potential free agents that could be signed by the New York Giants this offseason. Two weeks ago, we took a look at Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth. Last week, we looked at Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy.
This week, we take a look at former Giant, and current New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett. As the Texas A&M product prepares to take on the Atlanta Falcons in next weekend’s Super Bowl, he will also have to prepare for free agency as well.
The 29-year-old tight end has had a fruitful and productive career since his move from Dallas to New York in 2012. In four seasons with the Cowboys, Bennett played second fiddle to future Hall of Famer Jason Witten, and only amassed more than 30 receptions per year once, and only had four touchdowns in total.
Upon moving to the Giants, Bennett featured as the number one tight end, and thrived — he had 55 catches, 626 yards, and five touchdowns in his increased role. That offseason, he moved to Chicago and has put up similar seasons since. In one year with the Giants, three with the Bears, and one with the Patriots, Bennett has caught at least 50 receptions in every season. Additionally, he amassed over 600 yards, averaged over 10.0 yards per reception and caught at least five touchdowns in four of those five seasons.
This season, he’s had to fill the shoes of perennial Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski in New England and has done a terrific job. He figures to be a big threat for Tom Brady against the Falcons defense on Sunday.
Bennett’s consistency and production over the past half-decade warrant a big, healthy free agent contract this offseason. While he may be a little pricey, due to the premium placed on effective pass-catching tight ends in today’s NFL, the Giants have the money to sign him in free agency.
Should the Giants sign Bennett? There are pros and cons, as with every player.
One of the pros is familiarity — while Bennett didn’t play under Ben McAddoo in 2012, he did play with Eli Manning and has good chemistry with the Giants quarterback, who threw him the ball during his breakout season in New York. His return will likely be well received by Giants fans, who will see him as an instant upgrade over Larry Donnell and Will Tye (which he most certainly is).
Another pro is his increased pedigree. Since leaving the Giants, he has caught 21 touchdowns, played in two different offenses with two different quarterbacks, and will have had played in an AFC Championship game and a Super Bowl. His heightened experience will undoubtedly be a plus as he transitions into a different offense.
A con for Bennett could be his age. He his currently 29, and will be 30 by the time the new season rolls around. Signing Bennett to a multiyear extension could be wasted guaranteed money in a few years if he loses some of his influence due to age.
Additionally, there could be better, and cheaper alternatives. Eli Manning has won Super Bowls with Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard at tight end and doesn’t necessarily need a game breaking tight end to make a run at a title. Signing another established wide receiver to pair with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard could be a preferable alternative.
Additionally, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is an intriguing tight end prospect who has considerable upside, and at 22 years old, has a lot more football ahead of him than Bennett does.
Should the Giants sign Martellus Bennett? The answer should be yes. Tight end is one of the team’s biggest areas of need, and Bennett is an established tight end who is familiar with Eli Manning. At 29, he still has a couple of years left in him, and it might make more sense to spend a first round pick on an offensive lineman, or a linebacker, or a safety, or a pass rusher, as opposed to O.J. Howard.
If Bennett is willing to leave New England and head back to New York, a reunion could be in the cards, as long as the years and dollars aren’t too outlandish. This is one of the more realistic options that the Giants can look at.