Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett went on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football program on Friday morning and talked about hearing his name come up in trade talks. Several hours later, he was traded.
Multiple reports indicate that the New England Patriots are sending a 2020 draft picks in the fifth and seventh round to acquire Bennett. The deal cannot be announced until the NFL’s new year begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, which is also when free agency begins.
Bennett, who was second on the team in sacks last season with 9.5, was acquired last offseason in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
Bennett seemed to imply on GMF that the Eagles tried to get him to take a pay cut in order to save more money under the salary cap as the league prepares for the start of free agency.
“You’re always caught off guard when your name is brought up in the trade talks, but you understand people want to acquire your services,” said Bennett on GMF. “We’re in a tough situation as far as the salary cap. I’m not willing to take a pay cut. I actually went a pay raise, at this point. Whatever happens just to know that whatever team I go to, I want to get paid more than what I’m getting paid right now.”
Bennett, who will turn 34 during the 2019 season, was set to count $7.2 million against the Eagles’ cap. That is money they now have to do a little shopping on Wednesday.
The Eagles began the offseason in salary cap hell, the team with the least amount of money to spend. In fact, they were well above the salary cap number, which has recently been set at $188.2 million for the upcoming season.
Before trading Bennett, they had more money than 11 other NFL teams after releasing quarterback Nick Foles, re-doing the contract of left tackle Lane Johnson, and spreading the money out on money owed to Jason Kelce by adding a year to his contract, among other moves.
Losing Bennett, however, leaves a significant hole in the defensive line rotation employed by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. It was a rotation that Bennett never seemed very happy with last year. He appeared to exchange some heated words with then-defensive line coach Chris Wilson after being removed from a game in Tampa.
Bennett’s playing time increased when Derek Barnett was placed on Injured Reserve following mid-season shoulder surgery. With more snaps, Bennett’s production took off.
Barnett is expected to return at 100 percent this spring and the Eagles addressed their defensive line by signing Brandon Graham to a three-year contract before the veteran defensive end could reach the free agent market.
Veteran Chris Long, who will turn 33 on March 28, could also return. He had 6.5 sacks last year and has 11 in his two seasons in Philly.
Even if Long does not retire and elects to return, and the Eagles chose to pick up a contract that has a cap charge of $5.6 million, they still need help on the edge.
Perhaps the aid comes from second-year player Josh Sweat, who did not play much as a rookie and ended his season on IR.
It could also come during free agency, though most of the heavy hitting pass rushers such as Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney and Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence have been franchise tagged. It could also come in the form of a trade, though for who and for what is a mystery at this point.
Most certainly help will come in a defensive-line-rich draft, where the Eagles own picks 25, 53, and 57 in the first two rounds.
No matter where it comes from, the bottom line is, the Eagles now need another pass rusher.