By Steve Silverman
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New England made two acquisitions, and both involved a Chicago Bears team that has been among the worst in the NFL over the last three seasons.
One of them made some sense, at least on the surface. The Pats traded for tight end Martellus Bennett, who has one year remaining on his contract. While New England has a pretty good tight end named Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots love the two-tight end set, and Bennett is a player who runs well, has excellent hands and a desire to catch the football, even if it means he is going to get hit hard after making the catch.
Bennett is also a willing blocker, and he caught 90 passes in 2014.
Despite his production, Bennett is something of a prima donna/diva. When the Bears hired John Fox as head coach after the 2014 season, Bennett decided not to show up for the team’s “voluntary” minicamp last offseason. You know why the word voluntary is in quotes. Coaches need all hands on deck for their offseason workouts, especially head coaches who are new to their teams.
Bennett was apparently unhappy with his contract, so he decided not to show. He also had issues with his teammates and sulked quite a bit throughout the 2015 season.
However, when he’s upbeat, Bennett is a gregarious fellow who can fit in well and help keep a locker room happy. The Pats are likely to get the good Bennett because he knows he has a chance to work with Tom Brady, Gronkowski and the inventive Belichick.
Bennett may have been bothered by his contract terms in Chicago, but he knows he can raise his profile quite a bit with a huge year on a team that has a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
But it’s the signing of Shea McClellin that is hard to understand.
McClellin was selected out of Boise State with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, and it was a move that was questioned immediately by NFL cognoscenti and Bears’ observers.
McClellin was a fine athlete who showed well during his workouts before he was drafted, but at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, he appeared to be a player without a position.
The Bears drafted him to be a defensive end, but he was not big, strong or heavy enough to get the job done on a consistent basis. A first-round draft choice is supposed to be an immediate impact player, and the only impact that McClellin had on the Bears was that he raised the disappointment level considerably.
After a couple of seasons in which the Bears dismissed the possibility of McClellin moving to linebacker, he moved to linebacker anyway. He seemed to have the proper size, strength and speed for the position, but there was one thing wrong: He was not familiar with playing linebacker and did not look comfortable or play consistently in 2014 or 2015.
Chicago fans knew that McClellin was simply a draft pick that did not work out, and in simple parlance had been a four-year bust.
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The evidence was on videotape, and while his athleticism was clear, McClellin simply was not a playmaker.
Which leads to the question of why Belichick would want him on a team that is far superior to the Chicago Bears.
Teaching is still a huge part of coaching in the NFL, and Belichick believes his coaching staff can get more out of McClellin than the Bears could. OK, that’s a possibility, but why bother bringing him in? It’s not like McClellin was an average player who could become a good player, or a good player who could become a great one.
McClellin, by all accounts, is a very decent person with a wonderful personality. He’s a little on the quiet and humble side, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But he is something of a bum when it comes to his on-the-field contributions. He doesn’t appear to be the kind of player who is going to make impact plays for a championship-caliber team.
That’s the player that Belichick has signed. Clearly, he loves going against the grain and laughing in the face of conventional wisdom.
If he gets consistent productivity out of McClellin – a player with 7½ career sacks in four seasons – it may well be one of his best moves. It will also prove painful for the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
If it was anyone other than Belichick that made this signing, it would be laughable. But you have to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt when it comes to player evaluation, even if you wonder whether he has out-Belichicked himself.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy