The Chicago Bears are going to be in the market for a tight end, either via the NFL Draft or through free agency. In both cases there is a strong group of players that are solid options.
Thus far we've talked about potential targets. To give us a better understanding of each player, it's best to go to the All-22 coaches tape.
First up is N.Y. Giants TE Martellus Bennett, the gem of the tight end free agency class, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns last year. While that does not represent elite production, those numbers are above average from a guy that was plucked off the scrap heap last offseason.
The first thing you notice about Bennett is his size: 6-6, 265 pounds. He uses his body well, and is a good athlete for the position. Bennett is nothing special, but he is better than what the Bears currently have on the roster. He possesses decent straight-line speed and uses a bit of wiggle to get separation.
Bennett's route running was mainly limited to streaks, outs and digs that attacked the middle of the field. The one post route Bennett ran was a very long, curved route that showcased very poor route running ability.
The pattern pictured here isn't a direct route to any point on the football field, rather a wide sweeping angle down the middle of the field. The pass intended for him is intercepted.
Another issue with Bennett is the four drops he had during the first two games of the season with the Giants. The Week 2 game was especially bad, as he posted three drops in the game against the Buccaneerss. All four balls are well thrown passes out in front of him and away from his body, which inexplicably bounce off his hands.
In the nine games I watched, there were six drops from Bennett and three passes that were intended for him that wound up as interceptions in one form or another. This doesn't necessarily mean these picks were his fault, but the routes weren't particularly good nor was his attempt to make a play on the football.
While Bennett does have good speed, it takes him a while to build up his full momentum. He's note explosive off the line but when he does get to full speed, he starts to run away from linebackers. He is also good at finding soft spots in zones, or getting open when defenders aren't expecting him to leak out and make a play.
In this clip you have Bennett running past Tampa Bay safety Sean Baker. Baker challenges Bennett for the catch but only because Manning under throws the football. Yet the big tight end is still able to make the grab. The catch goes for 33 yards and a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Again, in the game against the Panthers, Bennett runs a dig route in front of the linebackers. He lines up on the outside and then runs underneath the slot receiver. It's a completely blown coverage. Bennett settles down right in front of the linebackers and makes a nice catch.
Bennett can make catches in traffic and uses his body well to shield off the defender. He's a well-rounded TE that gets down the field. He's an upgrade over Kellen Davis because he's faster and not as stiff.
The biggest question I have about Bennett is just how consistent are his hands? PFF listed him with just six drops in 2012. This is a good sign, from the scouting standpoint, but in my own tape observations, I saw a few more drops that weren't counted. It brings into question his consistency as a pass catcher.
Bennett has said he wants to retire in New York but most soon-to-be free agents say as much about their current teams. When I contacted him on Twitter, he said he's very good friends with Brandon Marshall and has been following the Bears from afar.
There's a chance Chicago makes a run at him, but the price has to be right, because on tape, you see a player for whom it's not worth breaking the bank.
Brett Solesky has worked in TV, newspapers and, for the last seven years, in radio. He also co-hosts the best Chicago Bears podcast on the Web, Bear Report Radio, which appears on BearReport.com and his blog MidwayIllustrated.com.