Patriots release tight end Martellus Bennett

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots released veteran tight end Martellus Bennett on Wednesday.

The move was expected, and it creates about $6 million in salary-cap space.

Bennett, who turns 31 on March 10, was due a $2 million roster bonus on March 14. Had the Patriots elected to pick up the roster bonus, it would have been an indication that Bennett -- who was due a $3.6 million base salary in 2018 with the chance to earn an additional $2.6 million in incentives and bonuses -- was part of their future plans.

That seemed unlikely, especially as the Patriots need cap space as part of their free-agent plans.

Releasing Bennett gives the Patriots about $23 million in cap space, some of which will be needed if the team plans to make competitive offers to free-agents-to-be such as starting left tackle Nate Solder, slot receiver Danny Amendola and running backs Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.

As for Bennett, his arrival in New England last November -- after the Patriots claimed him on waivers from the Green Bay Packers -- made headlines because of the way it unfolded. The Packers waived him with a designation that he failed to disclose a physical condition. Green Bay had waived Bennett with the intention of placing him on injured reserve due to a shoulder issue, but the Patriots claimed him.

Green Bay's attempt to recoup Bennett's signing bonus money through a grievance filed late last year was turned down by an independent arbitrator a few weeks ago, but the team plans to appeal.

Bennett played in two games for the Patriots, totaling six catches for 53 yards over 24 offensive snaps, before he was placed on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury.

Bennett's release comes on the day his brother, defensive end Michael Bennett, was traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots currently have tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye under contract for 2018, though Allen is due a base salary of $4.5 million, which might be too rich for the Patriots' liking, given his lack of contributions as a pass-catcher.