The Patriots are almost certainly going to lose Trey Flowers in free agency, but trading for Michael Bennett will soften the blow for Bill Belichick.
For the second year in a row, Michael Bennett is going to be putting his pass rush skills to work for a different NFL franchise. He moved from the Seahawks to the Eagles last season, and now he’s headed to New England to help Bill Belichick cope with the potential loss of Trey Flowers.
The suddenness of the trade caught quite a few NFL observers by surprise, but there were warning signs emanating from Bennett’s camp. The 33-year-old defensive end flatly refused to entertain the idea of taking a pay cut with the Eagles. In fact, he told Philadelphia’s front office that he wanted a pay increase. Clearly, the Eagles weren’t interested in having that kind of conversation.
That left the Eagles with two realistic options. They could either release Bennett while getting nothing in return, or they could trade him for the best asset available. The ever opportunistic Patriots swooped right in to buy Bennett on the cheap. In this piece, we’ll evaluate which team got the better of this interesting transaction.
Michael Bennett, 2020 7th round pick
2020 5th round pick
Credit New England for recognizing how difficult life without Flowers was going to be. The Patriots could have waited until this year’s draft to try to find his replacement, but Bennett should slot right into his position at defensive end.
Bennett actually had more sacks (9) than Flowers (7.5) last season. A lot of that was based on the scheme he enjoyed in Philadelphia, but it’s not unreasonable to think he can produce at the same level Flowers did for the Pats in 2019.
The downside to acquiring Bennett is twofold. Firstly, he’s already 33 years old. His performance could start to drop off sharply at any moment. The second issue is that he’s being paid like a quality starter. Bennett is owed just over $7 million this season and is guaranteed $8 million in 2020. It’s possible this could become a bad contact for New England before it’s through.
Even so, the Patriots are getting a starting defensive end for what amounts to a modest pick swap in 2020. That’s good value no matter how you look at it. This is a nice move by Belichick and company.
In evaluating this trade from the Eagles perspective you have to understand that the organization didn’t have any good choices. Once the front office decided Benentt’s contract was too expensive, it became obvious they’d struggle to get a meaningful return for his services.
Despite giving them the benefit of the doubt, moving up two rounds in next year’s draft still seems like a really light return. Add in the fact that the selection will come from the Patriots and it means it will probably come in near the bottom of round five. It’s fair to wonder whether or not the Eagles could have gotten a better return if they exercised a little more patience.
The more interesting question is whether or not the front office’s decision that Bennett wasn’t worth $7.2 million this season was the right call. Free agency is going to see a lot of edge rushers eclipse that number. Philadelphia will need to do something really impressive with Bennett’s cap space if they want to make this move look good.