It was clear heading into last year's offseason that Kellen Davis was not the answer, which is why Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery spent big, signing Martellus Bennett in free agency. Following a 2012 campaign with the New York Giants in which he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns, Bennett was one of the most sought-after tight ends on the market.
Bennett signed a four-year, $20.4 million contract to join the Bears and proved this year to be worth every penny. He set career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759), to go along with five touchdowns.
As a target in the middle of the field, Bennett was solid. He was able to create separation from linebackers and has the size and leaping ability to exploit safeties down the field. He was particularly adept in the red zone, where Jay Cutler looked his way often.
Bennett's 65 catches were second most in franchise history, behind only Mike Ditka's 75 receptions in 1964, while his 759 receiving yards and five scores are sixth most in club annals. He has 1,385 receiving yards and 10 TDs the past two years combined, one of just eight tight ends in the league to accrue more than 1,000 receiving yards and 10 scores since 2012.
Bennett's contributions didn't end there though, as he also served as the team's primary blocking tight end. He was used in pass protection one-on-one against opposing defensive ends and played a key role as an edge blocker in the run game. And in the locker room, no one smiled more than the self-proclaimed Black Unicorn. He was everything he was advertised to be and more and will continue to play a crucial role in Marc Trestman's offense for at least the next three seasons.
Bennett's ability as an every-down player didn't leave a lot of other snaps for backup Dante Rosario, yet the journeyman veteran, who signed just before the start of the season, made the most of his time on the field. He caught just one pass for 13 yards but he had a strong impact as a run blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, only two players on the team, Matt Slauson and Brandon Marshall, had higher run blocking grades than Rosario.
Rosario doesn't need to be a playmaker – Bennett has that under control – he just needs to be a role player. Last year, he did just that and was a key player in short yardage situations.
2013 TE Grade: B+
It was almost a one-man show at the tight end position under Marc Trestman. Bennett played 964 snaps in 2013, while the rest of the team's tight ends combined for just 261 snaps. Bennett shined in his new role and should only get better as he and Cutler continue to develop together. The only real concern is injury, as the position lacks adequate depth, but for as long as the Black Unicorn stays health, the Bears will be set at tight end.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.