Not many of Howie Roseman’s recent transactions have worked out all that well for the Eagles, but in Sunday’s 25-22 win over the New York Giants, defensive end Michael Bennett proved once again his addition to the 2018 Eagles has been a life-saver.
Bennett has been Philadelphia’s most consistent edge pass-rusher this season since being acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round pick last spring. He leads the team with 6.5 sacks through 11 games, including 5.5 in his last 6. His sack of Eli Manning on the Giants’ first drive of the second half Sunday helped set the tone for a 22-3 run, a run triggered by a defense that gave up just 56 total yards in the second half.
Bennett has had to pick up the slack. Veterans Chris Long (4.5 sacks) and Brandon Graham (3 sacks) have so far failed to pile up the sack totals, as has Fletcher Cox (4 sacks), although he has been constantly double and triple-teamed this season. The absence of injured defensive end Derek Barnett has also left a void in the team’s sack column.
Certainly, Bennett’s production for the low cost of trading Marcus Johnson and a 2018 fifth-round pick (PLUS the Eagles received a 2018 seventh-rounder in return) is something the team will take every single time. And in fact, the Bennett trade has really been the only move Howie Roseman got right this off-season.
We don’t know for sure what the Eagles could have gotten for Nick Foles in a trade this summer, but not dealing him for something looks, in hindsight, to be a mistake. Signing Mike Wallace to replace Torrey Smith Jr. has not worked out. Trading a third-round pick for Golden Tate could still turn out well, but so far, has been a bust. Veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been a non-factor. The lack of depth at the safety position killed the secondary when Rodney McLeod went down for the season. Not adequately replacing LeGarrette Blount hurt badly when Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles went down.
Much of this is a combination of bad luck and poor foresight but Roseman absolutely nailed the Bennett trade.
But will he be back next year?
Bennett is 33 years old and, although he is playing almost as well as he ever has, father time is likely to begin tapping on his shoulder soon. He also has two years left on his contract that includes a cap hit of $7 million next year and $8 million in 2020.
According to Spotrac, the Eagles currently are $12.4 million over the cap for next season. If the Eagles were to cut ties with Bennett, they would free themselves of all $7 million, not an insignificant chunk for a team that could have salary cap issues next season.
But there are other factors to consider.
Chris Long is a year older than Bennett and considered retirement before agreeing to come back for one more season. He almost certainly won’t be back next year. Brandon Graham is also not signed after this season. There are no reports of any in-season contract extension discussions between the team and the 30-year-old and, given his lack of production this year and the potential cap room he would soak up, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they let him walk, too.
It seems unlikely Roseman would keep both Graham and Bennett, although stranger things have happened.
As for the rest of this season, there’s still time for Wallace to come back and produce, for Mike Groh & Co. to end the “challenge” to incorporate Tate into the offense, and for Ngata to make a cameo appearance here and there as well. But for now, Bennett is the only one Roseman’s springtime moves to provide any semblance of production in 2018.