Even though Ryan Pace and John Fox dodged questions about Bennett at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine, the team already had initiated the process of cutting ties with the veteran tight end.
The Bears have no issues with Bennett’s talent. At 6-foot-6, Bennett is a talented, two-way tight end who is almost impossible to bring down solo in the open field. After all, Bennett made the Pro Bowl in 2014, catching 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.
However, Bennett infuriated the Bears last offseason when he boycotted Fox’s first voluntary offseason program in Chicago. The new coaches and front office were attempting to establish familiarity with their new players, and Bennett’s ill-advised and pointless absence robbed him of the opportunity to ingratiate himself with Fox, Pace and entire crew.
Although Bennett eventually returned -- to avoid incurring a fine -- he failed to have the same impact as the year before.
Always outspoken, Bennett tried to be diplomatic about his declining role on offense, but his message resonated loud and clear: He felt he needed more targets in the passing game.
"I have a lot of responsibilities in the offense," Bennett said on Nov. 5."You guys have to talk to Jay Cutler and [offensive coordinator] Adam Gase about [if my role has changed in recent weeks]. I'm just trying to be a really good employee. That's all. I'm not really tripping. Whatever they ask me to do is what I do. At some point they have to come my way, but until they do there is nothing I can do about it. I'm open, so.
"[I don't want to] be a bad employee. I just keep my head down and go to work. Because when you say something you become the a----- even if it's a valid point. So I just avoid drama. They don't pay the a------. At this point I just want to be a really good employee."
Bennett finished the season with 53 receptions for 439 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. Bennett went on injured reserve with fractured ribs Dec. 8 despite finishing the Bears' game versus San Francisco two days earlier.
But Bennett’s desire for a new contract never waned. Unfortunately for Bennett, the Bears had no interest in extending his current deal, especially after the tight end rubbed so many people inside the building the wrong way.
The Bears were more than willing to accommodate Bennett’s request for a trade, even though it meant losing one of the NFL’s upper-echelon tight ends.
Bennett gave the Bears three good years. He outperformed the deal (orchestrate by ex-general manager Phil Emery) he signed in 2013. But Bennett’s shelf life in Chicago simply expired. Both parties wanted to move on.
For a player with so much talent and natural ability, the Bears’ decision to move Bennett is probably the easiest call they’ve made the entire offseason.