INDIANAPOLIS — Martellus Bennett’s time will come. The Bears have other players to speak to before they get to him. That’s where they are with the gregarious tight end at the moment.
“I talked to him right at the end of the season,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday. “I haven’t talked to him recently. And really with him, he’s under contract. We’ve got a lot of players who aren’t under contract. That’s where our focus is right now.”
Bennett is under contract for one more season, carrying a $6.31 million salary-cap hit for the 2016 season. But he remains on shaky ground with the team after raising trouble last season, which started with sitting out the voluntary portion of theoffseason program in his pursuit of a new contract.
It’s in the Bears’ best interests to wait and see how free agency and the draft shakes out before deciding on Bennett’s fate.
“We recognize that he’s a talented, well-rounded tight end,” Pace said. “Again, he’s under contract. Our focus is on all these that are out of their contract. You categorize them in two different areas, and he’s in the other area right now.”
Coach John Fox was asked if he was worried Bennett might sit out another offseason program.
“I worry about everything but everything changes year to year,” he said. “We’ve wiped the slate, everybody is 0-0 and that’s kind of how I look at molding our football team as well. New process, it’s a new challenge and we’ll see what happens moving forward. Right now they’re off.”
Bennett’s production declined last season. He had 53 catches for 439 yard and three touchdowns in 11 games. He was missed five games with a broken rib, ending the season on injured reserve.
While Bennett struggled, tight end Zach Miller flourished. He had a breakout season, becoming a go-to target for quarterback Jay Cutler in making 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns.
Miller is an unrestricted free agent, though. Despite his emergence last season, Milleris 31 and his lengthy injury history is something the Bears have to protect themselves against.
“What happens at this stage really in the game, you just understand the reality that a lot of times these guys have to hit the open market to kind of set their value,” Pace said. “I understand that’s the case with a lot of these positions. It’s kind of the necessary place that we’re in right now. We like Zach. I don’t want to go through every one of our UFA’s, but he’s a guy we’d want back, and we’re negotiating with him.”
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