BAD TRADE, GOOD RID­DANCE?

Ben­nettwould­be­hard­tore­place, butBears­don’tmind

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - PA­TRICK FIN­LEY Email: pfin­ley@sun­times.com

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.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @patrick­fin­ley.

| L.G. PATTERSON/AP

The Bears re­port­edly are try­ing to move ir­rev­er­ent tight end Martel­lus Ben­nett.

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