Life without the Black Unicorn

How will a potential holdout by tight end Martellus Bennett, who has not participated in any of the club's offseason activities to this point, affect the Chicago Bears on the field?

The Chicago Bears will soon begin their third week of organized team activities (OTAs) and starting tight end Martellus Bennett is yet to be seen. This coming off the heels of trade rumors leading into the 2015 NFL Draft that Bennett was not happy about his current contract situation.

Reviewing Bennett’s contract, he is going into the third year of a four-year, $20.4 million deal, which had just $5.1 million in guarantees. He is due to make $6.125 million in 2015 and $6.31 million in 2016, which is the final year of his deal. Bennett could lose out on a measly $100,000 in workout bonuses.

OTAs are voluntary workouts and if a player like Bennett skips out on these sessions, they are not classified as a finable offense.

The biggest issue with this contract feud is not only conditioning but the implementation of a new offensive system under Adam Gase. This will be Bennett’s third offensive system in the past four seasons and his second as a member of the Bears.

Since these workouts are voluntary, this is not considered a holdout…yet.

Bennett claims to be working out at various places, including with former teammate and now New York Jets’ receiver Brandon Marshall, but at what point does he come back to the team?

Bennett’s Production vs Positional Pay

In analyzing where the “Black Unicorn” sits in the NFL’s tight-end rankings since his newest contract just two seasons ago, there is a difference in production compared to other player’s pay.

Over the past two seasons, Bennett has a line of 155 receptions, 1,672 yards and 11 total touchdowns.

Last year he ranked first in receptions, third in yards, seventh in touchdowns at his position, and was graded Pro Football Focus’ sixth best tight end.

In terms of pay, Bennett ranks 11th in total cap hit for 2015 and his average cap hit comes in at 13th overall.

Bennett’s overall production-to-value ratio projects him at top five at his position and an overall average cap hit of $7.5 million-$8 million per year.

Tight End Depth Behind Bennett

The team currently has eight tight ends on the roster and none have had anywhere near the success as Bennett has had his previous two years.

Zach Miller

Miller may be the most promising of any of the seven players on the depth chart behind Bennett but he has been plagued by injuries since entering the NFL in 2009. With just a total of 45 receptions and 470 yards in his career, and not having played a single regular-season snap since 2011, it’s hard to imagine Miller being anything more than a fractional replacement if Bennett holds out.

Dante Rosario

Featured as the number two tight end last year in former head coach Marc Trestman’s system, Rosario posted 16 receptions for 116 yards over the course of 16 games. He will be 31 by the end of the season and is little more than a decent backup.

Bear Pascoe

The former sixth-round pick is known more as a blocking tight end than a front-line option. With 40 receptions, 336 yards and two touchdowns in his six-year career, Pascoe is currently on the roster bubble headed into the season.

The Rest of the Pack

Chris Pantale, at 25, is a young option but has yet to produce a regular-season NFL catch.

Blake Annen is an under-the-radar prospect that has the ability to be a good depth player with upside as a rotational pass catcher, and he’s only 24.

Brian Vogler is an undrafted free agent from Alabama who is a prototypical blocking tight end with little upside as a receiver.

Jacob Maxwell is in his second year after coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He’s never played an NFL regular-season snap.

What Would a Bennett Holdout Mean For Both Sides?

Bennett will not officially be considered a holdout unless he’s absent from mandatory camp in two weeks. If he does hold out, he will lose $30,000 each day that he holds out and could also lose out on other bonus checks, even ones that are already cashed.

The team has the option to “refund” the player what has been fined if he does decide to come back but that is on a team-by-team basis. In certain cases, a holdout can also delay a player from becoming a free agent but only if that players is less than four years in, which does not apply to Bennett.

On top of all that, players also run the risk of not coming into camp in football shape and further put themselves at risk for injuries that could have been prevented otherwise.

The only true effect it would have on the Bears as a team is a lack of preparation or, if he’s gone long enough, they could be forced to move to the other options listed above, none of which are ideal.

What is Likely to Happen?

In most potential holdout cases, players show up and play out their contracts for the year and either renegotiate or mutually agree to move on.

Overall, most fully expect Bennett to show up “when it counts” and play out at least this year, before revisiting the issue at season’s end.

Aaron Leming has years of salary cap knowledge and has written for Rant Sports, Bears Draft On Tap, and Cover 32. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report.



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