Money: Signed a four-year contract worth $20.4 million with $9.215 million in guarantees ($4.5 million signing bonus). Bennett will earn a total of $4.9 million in 2014 and is scheduled to count $6.025 million against the Bears’ salary cap in the second year of his deal.
Stats: Bennett finished the season with career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759) and tied his all-time best mark with five touchdown catches. Bennett’s 65 grabs ranked fourth on the Bears and No. 8 in the NFL amongst tight ends. His 759 receiving yards were the third highest total on the team and ninth amongst tight ends in the league.
2013 role: Bennett spent the entire year as the unquestioned No. 1 tight end on the Bears’ roster. He technically started 15 games, but Bennett played an extremely high number of snaps every single week. The tight end proved to be the Bears' third or fourth option on offense, sharing touches with receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and tailback Matt Forte. Bennett lived up to almost all of the expectations placed upon him after the Bears moved so quickly to sign him last offseason.
The good: Compared to the Bears’ 2012 starting tight end, Kellen Davis, Bennett looked like Kellen Winslow Sr. in his prime. Bennett immediately turned tight end from a position of severe weakness to a position of strength. The six-year veteran began the year with a bang when he hauled in three touchdown passes over the first two games, including the game-winner versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2. He displayed a willingness to fight for additional yards after receptions, even if he occasionally landed on his head as a result of the going to extra mile. Bennett’s quirky and eclectic personality played well with the media. He was never a distraction and seemed to be extremely happy and comfortable in his new surroundings.
The bad: Bennett never missed a game or complained about injuries, but he did fight through a variety of physical ailments that possibly curtailed his effectiveness to a small degree. There were weeks in the season when Bennett failed to factor much into the offense. He had five games where he caught two or fewer passes, but the Bears also had a variety of weapons for the quarterback to choose from.
2014 outlook: Bennett figures to pick up where he left off in 2013. Expect the tight end to again be one of the top four options on offense from week to week. Bennett would benefit from a stronger No. 2 tight end behind him on the depth chart. Perhaps that is an area the Bears address in the draft or in free agency. At 26 years old, Bennett, who turns 27 in March, should be entering the most productive phase of his NFL career.