Patriots To-Do List: Pats shouldn't over-extend for Bennett

Patriots To-Do List: Pats shouldn't over-extend for Bennett

With the glow of Super Bowl LI finally beginning to fade -- a little -- it's time to start looking ahead to 2017. Over the next few days, we'll look at the Patriots' to-do list: Things they need to care of as the offseason begins. Today: tight end Martellus Bennett.

What will Martellus Bennett do? What’s today? The soon-to-be-free agent has sent all manner of mixed messages about where he wants to play next season and what will inform his decision.

In the “he’s leaving” column are his statement that teams overpay for free agents who are “Super Bowl champs”  and a couple of instances in the Patriots locker room this year when, completely unprompted, Bennett started a soliloquy about not being with the Patriots next season.

In the “he’s staying” column are Bennett’s comments that he loves it in New England, both for football and marketing opportunities for life after football.

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

The Patriots paid Bennett more than $5 million last season and he’s collected more than $25M in his nine-year career. 

For his line of work, resume and skill set, that’s very good but – at 30 – the sand is almost out of the big-earnings hourglass.

What did the Patriots get for their $5M in 2016? Good return. Bennett played every game (many with serious pain), caught 55 balls for 701 yards (the 12.7 YPC average his highest since 2008) and a career-high seven touchdowns. He was a pretty inconsistent blocker but some of that can be linked to playing hurt. He also caught 10 of the 11 passes sent his way in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl. Post-Gronk, the next tight end on the roster behind Bennett was Matt Lengel. And that was it. So the team should be damn happy it traded for him.

Going forward? The team will try to keep the term short and it has to be wary of the Rob Gronkowski landscape. Gronk’s making about $4.75M in salary and bonuses this season (his contracts balloons to salaries of $8M and $9M in 2018 and 2019). The top-tier tight ends are making more than $9M in salary.

With both those situations in mind, the Patriots should slide a three-year, $18M offer across to Bennett with $10M guaranteed and see what happens.  

If a team out there decides it wants to blow Bennett out of the water, c’est la vie. The Patriots can comb the draft and free agency (Eagles RFA Trey Burton would be a very intriguing target since he’s marooned on the Eagles depth chart and is a special teams maven and crisp route-runner).

There should be no hard feelings on either side if Bennett goes someplace else. He was good for the Patriots and the Patriots were good for him. It’s on Bennett to decide if the relationship is more than a one-year stand.

Rob Gronkowski to Bruins: 'Keep your heads up'

Rob Gronkowski to Bruins: 'Keep your heads up'

Rob Gronkowski tweeted some consolation for the Boston Bruins Sunday.

The Bruins lost, 3-2, to the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their playoff series.

The game ended the Bruins' season, as Ottawa advanced to face off against the New York Rangers in the next round.

"Hats off to the @NHLBruins . Played there tails off. Keep your heads up. Playoff hockey is the best," Gronkowski wrote.

The New England Patriots tight end attended the game. He appeared on the NBC Sports broadcast in a box with friends just before the Bruins tied up the game, 2-2, in the third period.

However, the Bruins let up a power play goal from Clarke MacArthur in overtime, which put the Senators past the Bruins.

Prototypical Patriots: Garcia an athletic option at offensive tackle

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Prototypical Patriots: Garcia an athletic option at offensive tackle

No one's clamoring for additions to the Patriots offense in this year's draft class. They had the third-best scoring unit in the NFL last season, and they were fourth-best in the league in terms of yards per game in the regular season. 

PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW

There's not a whole heck of a lot of room for improvement, and most of last year's group is back for another run. With a major upgrade sprinkled in.

The quarterbacks and the starting offensive line seem set to return. The tight ends lost Martellus Bennett but added Dwayne Allen via trade. The running backs lost LeGarrette Blount but added Rex Burkhead and are primed to add Mike Gillislee. The receivers lost Michael Floyd but picked up one of the most explosive receivers in the league with the addition of Brandin Cooks.

On paper, this is among the best supporting casts Tom Brady has ever had. 

When it comes to this year's draft class, then, any picks made on the offensive side of the ball will seem like they're made with an eye toward 2018 and beyond. We covered a series of those types of contingency-plan picks in this week's mock draft, and in the third round we had the Patriots taking a offensive tackle.

The reasoning? With Nate Solder headed into a contract year, and with only LaAdrian Waddle behind Solder and Marcus Cannon as the team's backup tackle, having a high-upside edge-protector added to the mix could prove beneficial. 

So what do the Patriots typically look for at that position? 

Length, for one. Just looking at their last four early-to-mid-round tackles selected -- Solder, Cannon, Cameron Fleming and Sebastian Vollmer -- all measured 6-foot-5 or taller with 33-inch arms or longer. Weight seems to be less of a factor at this spot as the members of the above foursome ranged from 358 pounds (Cannon) to 312 pounds (Vollmer). 

Athleticism matters, too. All four ran sub-5.3-second 40-yard dashes, while Solder and Vollmer ran three-cones in the 7.5-second range. Cannon, Solder and Vollmer each broad-jumped over 107 inches and surpassed the 30-inch mark in the vertical at their respective combines. 

Taking all of those measurements into account, and keeping in mind some of the other factors the Patriots might appreciate -- college level of competition, experience in a diverse offensive scheme, intelligence, toughness -- here are a few of the names of offensive tackles we'll be keeping an eye on next weekend. 

Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin, 6-foot-6, 310 pounds: This was one of the more head-scratching visits made to the Patriots facilities during the pre-draft process. Ramczyk is widely considered a first-round prospect and arguably the top tackle in the draft . . . yet the Patriots aren't scheduled to pick until the third round. One reason for the extra homework done on the former Badger may have been that he was forced to have hip surgery after last season. He wasn't able to test at the combine, but he's considered one of the better athletes at the position in this draft class. 

Taylor Moton, Western Michigan, 6-foot-5, 319 pounds: Some experts have Moton pegged as a guard moving forward but his arm length (34 inches), hand size (10.5 inches) and athleticism (30.5-inch vertical, 109-inch broad jump, 4.58-second three-cone drill) could make him a fit on the outside. Regardless of where he ends up at the NFL level, the Patriots may need a second-round pick in order to have the opportunity to draft him. 

Antonio Garcia, Troy, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds: The Patriots have taken projects at tackle in the past. Vollmer entered college as a 250-pound tight end who eventually made the move to tackle, but even then rarely had his hand on the ground in Houston's pass-happy offense. Garcia may be seen in a similar light as showed great athleticism to mirror pass-rushers in college -- he did not allow a sack in 2016, per Pro Football Focus -- but is still raw as a run-blocker. Athletically he seems to meet New England's requirements with a 5.15 40-yard dash, a 31-inch vertical and a 108-inch broad jump. He visited the Patriots late in the run-up to the draft, and we highlighted him in our most recent mock.

Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell, 6-foot-7, 318 pounds: In what's thought to be a weak draft class at the position, Davenport's long arms (36.5 inches) and agility (7.57 seconds) may get him selected early on Day 3. If the Patriots feel comfortable giving him what amounts to a red-shirt year in order to clean up his technique and get him acclimated to a new level of competition, they may be willing to bite in the fourth or fifth round. 

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, 6-foot-7, 298 pounds: A durable full-time starter since the middle of the 2014 season, Johnson's tremendous length (36-inch arms) and power allowed him to be named a first-team All-ACC selection each of the last two years. The Patriots have long held an affinity for Seminoles who've worked under offensive line coach Rick Trickett (Bryan Stork, Tre' Jackson), and Johnson could be the latest to make his way to Foxboro if he's available in the middle rounds.

Conor McDermott, UCLA, 6-foot-8, 307 pounds: Maybe the ideal candidate to man one of the edges when it comes to his physical profile, McDermott has nearly 35-inch arms and 11-inch hands. He also ran a 5.18-second 40 and clocked standout times in the three-cone drill (7.52 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.58 seconds). He could afford to get stronger, but in an offense where he won't be pressed into action as a rookie unless there's an injury, he could spend his first pro season focusing his time on developing his power.