Martellus Bennett, the charitable tight end whose work off the field matched his contributions on it, is retiring from the NFL. The 10-year NFL veteran announced he’d put an end to his career after being released by the Patriots on March 7. He tweeted the news Friday night, with a longer message on Instagram.
I’ve decided to move on from the world of football and into the fantastical and wondrous world of creativity. I’m beginning what I believe to be my life’s work @ImaginationAgcy pic.twitter.com/7asa7ARXZX— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) March 24, 2018
“To be honest I was never really a football player I’ve always just been a creative guy who played football,” he wrote. “I’ve loved some parts of the game but never everything about it. The game of football has been a huge part of my journey but it has never been my final destination. Nor has it been my life’s work. I always knew that this roller coaster ride would end I’ve enjoyed every up and down twist and turn, as well as every scream and shout.”
Bennett also thanked his coaches and teammates in the note.
It’s a fitting way for Bennett to announce his retirement, with the creative flair he will devote full-time to his production company. The Imagination Agency is focused on making children’s content including books, films, and according to his Instagram message, a theme park one day. You may remember him giving it a shoutout during his Sunday Night Football intro before a game in 2016.
Bennett’s retirement is hardly a surprise, though.
His retirement at age 31 isn’t especially surprising. Bennett had suggested he’d retire after the 2017 season, and he was always going to be an expensive luxury for New England. The Patriots already have Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen under contract, and the veteran’s $6.1 million cap hit made him one of the league’s most expensive tight ends. With injury and age concerns mounting, the franchise elected to cut the 31-year-old with no dead money remaining on its cap earlier this month.
There was a chance Bennett could have re-signed with the club who brought him his first Super Bowl ring. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that he still wanted to play as of late February:
Despite publicly contemplating retirement last season, #Patriots TE Martellus Bennett does want to continue playing, I’m told. He’s due a $2M roster bonus on March 14, so New England has a decision… but his $6.2M cap hit isn’t bad.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 23, 2018
Coming from the man himself, Bennett didn’t sound too sure of a future in football earlier in the week. “Right now I’m just living life and trying to figure out what I want to do next,” Bennett said on The Rich Eisen Show via NFL.com. “Is it to continue to play? Is it to explore other options? What is it that I want to do?”
Well, it didn’t take Bennett long to decide that what he wanted to do was move on to the next phase of his life.
What did Bennett bring to the NFL?
Bennett’s size (6’7, 250 pounds) and athleticism made him a tantalizing prospect throughout his football career. The former five-star recruit was a big target at Texas A&M, but not a particularly productive one — he had just 1,246 receiving yards in three seasons with the Aggies.
Nevertheless, his measurables enticed scouts, and his decision to leave College Station was validated when the Dallas Cowboys snapped him up with the 61st pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. Four lackluster seasons in Texas — he failed to record a touchdown in the final three — led him to a make-good contract with the Giants in 2012. Rather than wash out, he turned the potential that brought him to the NFL into a star-making fifth season.
Bennett’s lone year with New York resulted in career highs of 55 receptions, 626 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. He parlayed that into a four-year, $20.4 million deal with the Bears. His performance only increased from there, culminating in his first Pro Bowl invitation and a 916-yard season in 2014.
The emergence of Zach Miller helped push him out the door in 2016 in a bargain-bin trade with the Patriots. Bennett, along with a sixth-round pick, were shipped east to play alongside Rob Gronkowski in exchange for the low cost of a fourth-rounder. Bennett would prove vital to the team’s playoff run, filling in for his injured counterpart and giving New England a game-changing talent at tight end en route to an NFL championship.
Why is he retiring?
Bennett’s final season in the NFL was a tumultuous one. His performance on the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning team made him a commodity on the free agent market, and the Packers made a rare splash by signing him to a three-year, $21 million deal.
Despite trading one Hall of Fame quarterback for another, Bennett’s tenure with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay was a rocky one. A shoulder issue created a rift between the tight end and the team, with Bennett claiming he was pressured to play through the pain of a legitimate injury and the team — from doctors to executives to players — denying this. The veteran was cut with the failure to disclose a medical condition designation, midway through a lost season in Wisconsin.
The Patriots were eager to snap him up through the waiver process, and while he returned to the field to make two appearances with the team, Bennett eventually headed to injured reserve for shoulder surgery.
Though the acrimonious finish to his final year left room for speculation that he’d keep playing, Bennett will now hang up his cleats and turn his attention to The Imagination Agency.