Has Martellus Bennett played his final game as a Patriot? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Yesterday Martellus Bennett seemed very eager to hit the open market when he said: “Teams overpay Super Bowl champs”. Today we learned just how much the Patriots would be willing to pay Bennett in order to retain him this offseason. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network had the latest on the Patriots negotiations.

“If you want to look at what the baseline is going to be, as soon as the Patriots did the deal to trade for Martellus Bennett from the Bears — who were basically going to cut him — they offered $7 million per year, he turned it down,” Rapoport said. “That is the baseline for where he is going to go.”

I don’t expect the Patriots offer to be much higher than that. Rapoport also adds in later that the Patriots will not pay Bennett more than Rob Gronkowski who will make $9 million next season. If a team exceeds that $9 million, Bennett is probably a safe bet to leave.

New England could also franchise tag Bennett but that would require them to work out a long-term deal with Dont’a Hightower first who is also set to hit free agency. Last year the tight end tag was worth a bit more than $9 million but that number varies every year. According to Spotrac.com, the Patriots will have more than $67 million to spend in free agency.