Martellus Bennett made a statement this off-season when he sat out voluntary workouts after the Chicago Bears refused to acquiesce to his contract demands.
The Bears yesterday issued their own statement by placing Bennett on the Injured Reserve list.
Officially, the IR designation is due to a rib injury. Unofficially, this move was inevitable.
Bennett's contract squabble came just a few months after the club overhauled the front office and coaching staff. First impressions of Bennett for both GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox were of a disgruntled employee who put his needs ahead of the good of the team.
When Bennett showed up at the start of mandatory minicamp, the Bears welcomed him with open arms and wiped the slate clean. Yet there have been rumblings about his attitude for most of the season and he reportedly blew up in practice last week. The "rib injury" kept him out of the Week 12 contest against the Packers, for which Bennett did not travel with the team. He then said he declined to watch the game on TV, while his wife watched in the other room.
It doesn't take much effort to read between the lines here. Bennett brought with him this year a horrible attitude and it festered to a boiling point. As a result, he now has the next four Sundays to stay at home and not watch his teammates.
Remember, Bennett is a player I've personally witnessed get into physical altercations with teammates four times the past three years. That includes last season, when he slammed first-round pick Kyle Fuller to the turf for, basically, no reason - a stunt that earned him a one-week suspension from the team.
He has shown a pattern of behavior that is detrimental to the franchise. The Bears have been down this path three times already this year - Brandon Marshall, Ray McDonald, Jeremiah Ratliff - and each time they parted ways with the player.
So why would Bennett's situation end any differently? Marshall, McDonald and Ratliff all refused to change, so who in their right mind thinks Bennett will suddenly see the light?
In all likelihood, Bennett has played his last snap in a Bears uniform.
The team shouldn't have any trouble trading him this off-season. Bennett is only 28 and just last year caught 90 passes for 916 yards and 6 TDs. He's also a good blocker, so the market for one of the better all-around tight ends in the game should be full.
Yet even if they can't find a trade partner, cutting Bennett would save more than $5.1 million in cap space next season, while costing them just $1.25 million in dead money.
Either way, the Bears come out on top.
As for his on-field production, the coaching staff feels very good about Zach Miller, who has been far more productive on a per-touch basis than Bennett this season. Miller has shown prowess as a receiver and can be a quality starter going forward, assuming he stays healthy. The Bears can then use their projected $60-million-plus in cap space, or one of their eight draft picks, to add depth at the tight end position this upcoming off-season.
Bennett is a talented, Pro Bowl player who can be an asset to any NFL offense but his attitude has very likely run him out of Chicago, and the Bears will be better for it.