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Martellus Bennett will test free-agent market

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Martellus Bennett understands he will have to leave New England to cash in as a Super Bowl champion.

Now it appears he might just be one-and-done with the Patriots.

Bennett will indeed test free agency, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday. Based on his asking price as the most coveted tight end on the market, it's a "real possibility" Bennett will play for another team in 2017, per Rapoport.

Based on this news, the franchise tag will not be an option for the 2014 Pro Bowler.

The Patriots and Bennett have a "mutually respectful" relationship, Rapoport added, but it will be quite a challenge for the two sides to find common ground on value once the new league year begins on March 9.

As we pointed out after the Pats' Super Bowl LI victory, the one financial constant of the Belichick era is a steadfast refusal to set the market for any player -- a policy that now leaves Bennett on the outside looking in.

The team is understandably unwilling to pay any tight end more than Rob Gronkowski's $9 million annual figure.

Soon after trading for Bennett last offseason, New England offered him a new deal worth $7 million per year, Rapoport reported early this month. Bennett promptly rejected that offer.

At this time last year, Bennett was available to 31 teams for the bargain-basement cost of a fourth-round pick. After transforming his reputation from clubhouse headache to selfless Super Bowl champion, he's now counting on one of the remaining 30 teams to overpay for his services.

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