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Patriots Blog

Assessing a Patriots bye week that saw Jimmy depart and Marty return



Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Ever inventive, Bill Belichick doesn’t need a game to keep you entertained. Just give him a bye week and the trade deadline. He’ll make things interesting
 
Much like 2016 when the Patriots dealt linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland heading into a midseason week off, Belichick opened this season’s break with a surprising move, sending Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco for a 2018 second-round draft pick. Before the Patriots could return to the field for Sunday’s game at Denver, he snagged tight end Martellus Bennett off the waiver wire on Thursday, a move reminiscent of LeGarrette Blount’s return via waivers in 2014.
 
The moves have critical short- and long-term implications for the Patriots. The Garoppolo deal leaves Tom Brady, who remains signed through 2019, as the sole possessor of his position for the foreseeable future. He wants to play until he’s 45 and (at least until the draft in April) the Patriots have no clear contender to replace him before 2022.
 
Living in the now, New England brings back Bennett, their second-leading receiver in 2016, in a move that could, depending on the tight end’s health, provide help in the red zone, which is the one glaring area of need for the offense.
 
Some thoughts on these moves and the consequences that spiral out of them…
 
THE SUM TOTAL OF WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE BREAK
 
Here’s a top-down look at the comings and goings since the Pats beat the Chargers on Oct. 29:
 
OUT: Garoppollo (traded to SF); DL Geneo Grissom (cut after the successful claim for Bennett); and most likely a 2018 fourth-round compensation pick (which the Pats would’ve received as a result of Bennett signing with Green Bay in free agency).
 
IN: Bennett (claimed off waivers); QB Brian Hoyer (signed as a free agent); DL Ricky Jean Francois (signed as a free agent); and the 49ers second-round pick in 2018.
 
It didn’t play out this way on paper, but the Garoppolo trade wasn’t really Garoppolo for a draft pick. It was Garoppolo for the second-rounder and Hoyer. This is important in evaluating the trade.
 
EVALUATING THE GAROPPOLO TRADE
 
While the Patriots most likely could have obtained more compensation for Garoppolo if they’d dealt him during the offseason, they maximized his Week 8 value by staffing his position with a viable replacement. Had the Pats sent Garoppolo to Cleveland, for example, the Browns would’ve cut a passer who’s barely qualified to be on an NFL roster. At that point, you would have 82 quarterbacks in the league, and the Patriots would be trying to identify the 83rd best professional passer in the world (84th best if you count Colin Kaepernick, who doesn’t seem to be on any team’s radar). That’s not ideal for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Hoyer, however, knows their system and has been adept at running their scout-team offense. The latter is of vital importance, because that’s the backup’s most important job while the starter is healthy.
 
The question will always linger as to whether the Pats should have received more for a player who, in retrospect, was never going to stay in New England beyond this season. Belichick almost certainly sacrificed some asset to hold onto Garoppolo for as long as possible. What they received in return for that theoretical asset was a chance (albeit a long shot) of making an impossible situation work out, and they also received eight games of insurance in the event Brady suffered an injury that would necessitate relief.
 
New England simply could not bend time, space and the salary cap in a way that would allow them keep Garoppolo, who may yet emerge as a franchise quarterback.
 
EVALUATING THE BENNETT MOVE
 
The Packers, who signed Bennett to a three-year, $21 million contract in the offseason, released him on Wednesday with a designation that the tight end had failed to disclose a medical condition. The Pats claimed him, setting off a gleeful response from Patriots fans who remember Bennett as a superior run blocker, a reliable pass receiver and mostly as the guy who danced with cheerleaders to a Whitney Houston song after New England’s victory in the AFC Championship game. Perhaps even more than that, they remember him as the guy who is not Dwayne Allen, the man brought in to fill the No. 2 tight end role and has yet to catch a pass for New England.
 
Unfortunately, ESPN’s Adam Schefter dulled the enthusiasm within hours of Bennett’s return to Foxboro, reporting that Bennett had suffered a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum, two separate shoulder injuries, each of which would be significant on its own. It is not yet clear whether Bennett can play through the injuries and, if so, when he’ll be able to contribute. Further complicating the issue, Bennett passed his physical with the team, and was present at Friday morning’s practice, and participated in the warm-up portion according to reports. So it’s not even clear yet whether the report is true.
 
Regardless of how much Bennett contributes, the move bears almost no risk for the Patriots. If Bennett can return, they get a player who caught eight of 10 red-zone targets last season. The Patriots are currently tied for 19th in the league, converting only 50 percent of red zone appearances into touchdowns.
 
If Bennett can’t play, it’s possible the Packers win a grievance for his failure to disclose a physical condition. In that case, the Patriots would recover the cap space for the pro-rated portion of his 2017 base salary. The best part of this deal for New England is that regardless of how much Bennett plays, his signing bonus money stays with the Packers. It also creates an interesting decision for them in the offseason.
 
If Bennett wants to play next year (which is not clear, given he said he was “pretty sure” he would retire after this season), the Patriots can choose between Allen and Bennett. Allen is due $12.4 million over the next two years (including $5 million in 2018). Cutting him would not result in a cap hit, according to Spotrac.com. With bonuses, (including a $ 2 million roster bonus due on March 16), Bennett is owed about $13 million over the next two seasons. The Pats could deny Bennett that roster bonus and make him a free agent. Given his experience in Green Bay and his stated desire to retire midseason, it’s likely Bennett’s value has dropped. Long story, short, the Pats could renegotiate with Bennett for 2018, cut Allen and save a good deal of money.
 
The only potential loss here is the compensation pick in the fourth round. The Patriots almost certainly valued Bennett higher than that pick in the offseason, and would have kept him for the money they’re paying him now if they could have done that.
 
Finally, although the Pats had to cut Grissom to make space for Bennett, the 2015 third-round pick has bounced between the practice squad and 53-man roster. He was inactive for the last two games.
 
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.