BAD TRADE, GOOD RIDDANCE?
The Bears seem to have chosen professional behavior over Pro Bowl talent. And if that sounds familiar, it is. An ESPN report Friday said the Bears were working with tight end Martellus Bennett and his agent, Kennard McGuire, to find a place to trade him. Exactly one year ago Sunday, the Bears and McGuire found a landing spot for another client, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, when they agreed to trade him to the Jets, along with a seventh-round pick, for a fifthrounder.
The Bears lost that trade on paper — the Pro Bowl receiver had 1,502 receiving yards, six shy of his career high, and a career-best 14 touchdowns, while the Bears selected the solid Adrian Amos — and would probably lose with a Bennett trade, too.
With Bennett entering the last year of his deal, the Bears would be lucky to get back what they did for Marshall. Like he did when he dealt Marshall, general manager Ryan Pace must have a plan to replace him.
On the free-agent market, they won’t do any better than Bennett, either. When the negotiating period begins Monday, the Bears won’t find an available tight end more talented than a motivated Bennett.
Two years ago, he set a franchise record with 90 catches and made his first Pro Bowl. He had 53 catches for 439 yards last year but annoyed his new bosses by staying away from offseason activities while asking for a newcontract and with outbursts during the season before being put on injured reserve in December.
He had remained mostly out of the public eye this offseason, though he was scheduled Saturday to speak on Orcas Island, near Seattle, in a series titled “Best of Both Worlds: The Potential in Polarity.”
The only available tight end to boast a better on-field résumé than Bennett is Antonio Gates — and he’s not leaving the Chargers.
What’s left? Zach Miller, who caught a career-high 34 passes for 439 yards last season, could return to reprise his pass-first role. Pace said Miller was likely to test the open market before deciding on a team.
The Chargers’ Ladarius Green and the Colts’ Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are probably the top options remaining.
Fleener, 27, a Lemont native who went to Joliet Catholic, is an accomplished receiver, catching no fewer than 51 passes in each of the last three seasons. Allen, who had only 109 receiving yards last year, is considered a superior blocker and is a year younger than his teammate. The Colts can’t afford to keep both.
Playing alongside Gates, Green, 25, has looked promising but still has never topped 37 receptions. He had that many last season after totaling only 40 combined in his first three seasons.
Free agent Ben Watson is 35 and Vernon Davis, who didn’t catch a pass during the Broncos’ postseason run, is 32.
The Rams cut Jared Cook, 28, one season removed from a career year. But his stats in 2014 — 52 catches for 634 yards — fall 17 catches and 70 yards shy of Bennett’s average during his three seasons with the Bears.
Even if the Bears re-sign Miller, they’d likely need another blocking tight end to team with likeminded backup Khari Lee.
Despite all this uncertainty, it’s telling that the Bears are leaning toward life without Bennett.
The Bears might have lost the Marshall trade on paper, and they might lose again if they find a taker for Bennett, but they gained something, too.
Locker-room peace is harder to quantify than statistics. But however the Bears measured détente after moving Marshall, one thing is clear: They liked it enough to try it again.
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The Bears reportedly are trying to move irreverent tight end Martellus Bennett.