Patriots' acquisition of Dwayne Allen means Martellus Bennett departs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots' acquisition of tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday will end Martellus Bennett's tenure with the club after one season.

Bennett is a free agent, and the Patriots won't be paying him top dollar in addition to absorbing the final three years of the four-year, $29 million pact Allen had signed as a free agent last offseason. Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski is locked in with the team at a base salary of $4.25 million.

There's only so much money to go around at one position.

Bennett was everything the Patriots could have asked for, but the team's decision was partly driven by economics and future projections. Allen is a cheaper option, and he's also younger, having just turned 27 on Feb. 24. Bennett will be more expensive -- one report had him seeking close to $9 million per season on the open market -- and he turns 30 on Friday.

Bennett (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) is a superior player now with more miles on his odometer, but Allen (6-3, 265) is still an ascending player. Assuming he stays healthy -- no certainty, considering he has missed 23 games over the last four seasons -- Allen has the upside to potentially reach Bennett's level.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long been a fan of Allen, saying before a 2014 game against the Colts that he's one of the best blocking tight ends the Patriots will see. Allen's 45 receptions his rookie season in 2012 show that he also can catch the football.

While Belichick has been a fan, so, too, has this reporter. Allen was targeted as one of the players the Patriots should pursue last offseason. In a piece headlined, "Patriots' greatest free-agent impact starts with Matt Forte, Dwayne Allen," the case was made why Allen would be a perfect complement to Gronkowski as a 1-2 tight end punch.

But the Patriots never got the chance to add Allen, who signed his lucrative four-year, $29 million extension with the Colts under former general manager Ryan Grigson before free agency began. That led the Patriots to Bennett, who was due to earn a base salary of $5 million in 2016.

Now it's a reverse play, with the Patriots staying ahead of the economic curve with the three years and $17.5 million left on Allen's contract.

In acquiring Allen, the Patriots executed the same trade they did when they acquired Bennett -- landing Allen and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder.

That isn't a coincidence.