Martellus Bennett is Buzz Lightyear, I am Woody the Sheriff, and there's snake in my boot. I'll explain.
Before reading further, if you are unaware of who or what a 'Buzz Lightyear' is, and/or haven't seen Toy Story:
A. Seriously? It's a cinematic treasure. No excuses.
B. Just jump 5-6 paragraphs down.
C. Wake up tomorrow and begin straightening out the priorities in your life.
Start by thinking back to when Buzz Lightyear first is introduced to his new crew of play-time partners; Andy's old toys. It couldn't have gone bettter. Just about every toy in the room instantly became mesmerized by him. Who could blame them. He was an impressive specimen. He had high performance features like lasers, retractable wings (come on, imagine life with retractable wings), and he oozed confidence (which I suppose comes easily when you are convinced you're an outer space action hero and not just a plastic toy).
Now think back to this spring when you heard the news that the Patriots were bringing in a 6'6" 270-pound behemoth to supplement Tom Brady and company. You were excited. The Patriots were excited. The media was excited. In the ensuing months, and through 13 games since his arrival, Bennett has done nothing on the field or in the locker room to give fans any inclination that he isn't everything they dreamed. The powerful combination of talent, his outside-the-box personality, and that same Lightyear-style confidence has created this sustained honeymoon period, and has fans dreaming of what the future could hold.
I am not one of those fans. I am not one of those toys in Andy's room fawning over their new plastic comrade. I am like Sheriff Woody. I look on from the outside with skepticism, muttering to myself hold on a second here, what do we really know about this guy? Why does everyone think he's so amazing?
At some point in our lives, we all find ourselves on the Sheriff Woody end of one of these situations. In grade school, it might be the new kid who moves into town whose parents have a swimming pool, so your friends start hanging out with him more instead of you. Maybe it's the new woman in your office that upper management is fast-tracking. The one with the pseudo-upbeat attitude and her MBA in her email signature. Or maybe it's your new neighbor in the nursing home who has the most amazing life story, and your bingo buddies just can't get enough of his knee slapping tales.
What do we really know about these people?
When a new arrival sweeps us off our feet like Buzz Lightyear, the Sheriff Woodys of the world need to step in and provide some perspective. Someone needs to let Buzz know he's just a toy. Someone needs to let your childhood friends know that the new kid likes Nickelback. Someone needs to let upper management know that as it turns out, the new woman with the MBA isn’t proficient in Excel like she claimed on her resume. Someone needs to bring Patriots fans back down to earth. Martellus Bennett's future in New England should not be to infinity and beyond. Here's why.
On Sunday, NFL Network insider Ian Rappaport broke the news that negotiations between Bennett and the Patriots have been tabled until after the season, and that the veteran TE had turned down a $7,000,000 per year deal.
#Patriots TE Martellus Bennett is in for a big payday. He turned down a $7M per year offer before the season. Will resume talks after 2016.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 4, 2016
The details of the proposed extension remain unknown, so any attempt to gauge the number that Bennett's representatives were looking for based on this report would be pure speculation. Contracts can be structured in many ways. For all we know, that $7mil per year offer could have been a $1,000,000 per year salary an annual $6,000,000 Pro Bowl incentive. It also could've been a guaranteed 4 year $28mil deal (highly unlikely) and Bennett could have said thanks, but no thanks.
If the price isn't right for the Patriots, these are the four main reasons why they need to let him walk.
1. You can't pay him more than Rob Gronkowski. In the past 3 seasons, Gronk has received $21,733,553 in cash, and he is scheduled to receive $24mil more over the next 3 years, although none of that is guaranteed. Say what you will about his injuries, but the guy has become a team captain and has taken a taken a beating for the Patriots. Multiple forearm and back surgeries, an ACL tear, high ankle sprains, a punctured/perforated lung, etc. All the while, he's maintained his status as the league's biggest mismatch. Sorry, you don't drop top-of-the-market cash for the second best TE on your roster.
2. Age. The day after the start of the 2017 league year, he'll turn 30 years old. Sorry, you don't drop top-of-the-market cash for the second best TE on your roster...especially when he's 30+ years old.
3. The draft. The 2017 NFL Draft is rich with TE talent. From four-time All-SEC selection Evan Engram, to Michigan stud Jake Butt, this draft will provide cost-friendly options to teams who are looking for depth at the position.
4. The unknown. The problem with signing Martellus Bennett to a long-term extension is that fact you don’t know what you don’t know. Because of this, the price must be right, and the guarantees within the contract must protect the club. How much does he really love football? What motivates him? Is the old Martellus Bennett who will fight teammates in practice, give up on plays, and trash the team in the media gone for good? What happens when he inevitably experiences adversity in New England? These are questions we simply can’t answer.
From what we've seen from Martellus Bennett, CEO of The Imagination Agency, I’d like to think he wouldn’t mind being likened to Buzz Lightyear. I mean, who wouldn’t love having retractable wings?
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First photo: Ron Schwane, Associated Press
Last photo:Natasha Moustache/Getty Images