Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Patriots Pull Off Another Stunner; Nab Bears' Bennett For Pick

I hate Bill Belichick.

Every season, I think I know exactly how Belichick is going to build his team for the upcoming season, and every season Belichick mauls my predictions like a pit bull would a frisbee. I mean, the only prediction that I've nailed thus far was the Chandler Jones trade, which was probably the worst kept secret in New England to begin with, so it barely counts as a win...

Especially now that the Patriots have pulled off two major - dare we say "Blockbuster"? - trades in the space of 24 hours that have changed the face of the team and rendered our draft big boards and mock drafts smoldering ruins.

The latest trade occurred on Wednesday night around dinner time for most civilized folk, when the Patriots sent their fourth round selection in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft to the Chicago Bears for Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett, a former second round selection of the Dallas Cowboys back in 2008.

Bennett is just a year removed from a "Gronkian" 90 receptions in 2014, and was well on his way to eclipsing that number when he reportedly bruised some ribs in a game against the Denver Broncos and saw very limited action in the following weeks before being placed on the Bears' injured reserved list.

Bennett had been visibly frustrated with new Bears' coach John Fox and lashed out with talk about how he was being misused in the offense, especially in the red zone. There has been rampant speculation that Fox, whose rigid system has alienated many players long before his conforntation with Bennett, used the rib injury as a way to get Bennett to the IR to be rid of him...

...which isn't the best baggage to be carrying around to your new team, but Belichick is hardly as rigid in his philosophy as Fox is, and Fox is simply no Bill Belichick.

In introducing his new offensive coordinator last season, Fox took the opportunity to let everyone know who was in charge in Chicago. "Let me make this clear: Our systems are our systems" Fox began, "They are not any individual's systems, they are our systems, and our systems are not changing."

In contrast, Belichick has a philosophy in which he adapts his playbook on a weekly basis in order to get his players in the best possible matchups, in accordance with their talents and what fire they bring to the field.

So where Bennett complained openly about red zone targets that were his in previous seasons, and now were split with fellow tight end Zach Miller (who was in his first season with the Bears after three in Jacksonville), he now goes to a team who has the undisputed best tight end in football already established..

Bennett never had a complementary tight end in Chicago before Miller's arrival, nor did he have one with the New York Giants, but he did spend his first four years in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, playing second fiddle to - and learning the tools of the trade from - Jason Whitten, and became an excellent drive blocker under Whitten's tutelage.

So what the Patriots get is mostrously large and talented free spirit who likes his red zone targets and is an excellent drive blocker, and joins the ultimate NFL free spirit in Rob Gronkowski, who enjoys red zone targets just as much and who is excellent in run blocking - which brings up the concern as to whether Bennett will play nice and acknowledge the mastery of Belichick and embrace the number of weapons that future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has to spread the ball around to.

It's going to cost the Patriots a little over $5Million to find out, but if he melds with the rest of the fellas, Belichick is going to find ways for Bennett to put his handprints on this offense

Looking forward and assuming all goes according to plan, this move changes the landscape of the Patriots' offense. With two"complete" tight ends able to line up anywhere in the Patriots' offensive formation, the opposition is going to see plenty of two tight end sets regardless of the down and distance, and always with at least on running back, which should bring back memories of a magical time that the Patriots had two premier tight ends to focus their offense on.

So Patriots' fans should be very happy with the move to secure Bennett, and also with the physical, smashmouth look the offense is taking on, and is becoming more and more transparent every day - because any offense that can run a 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) or even a 22 personnel and still spread the defense thin due to the multiple options these athletes give the play caller, is going to be very difficult to stop.

This move eats up the money on the cap that the team saved by dealing defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona on Tuesday, and should have New England right where they need to be in order to sign all of their draft picks, so this should be all the Patriots can muster in free agency, barring more cap relief with cutting salaries - and if it is, you can certainly say the Patriots were successful in imporving their offense.

On second thought, I love Bill Belichick, and mock drafts be damned...

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