1 - Losing Michael Bennett is a bummer
The Eagles are worse off now that Bennett is gone. He was great for the Eagles in 2018.
His numbers from last season:
Regular season stats: 716 snaps, 34 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 20 QB hits, 37 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection
Playoff stats: 115 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 7 QB hurries
For more perspective:
He finished second on the Eagles in sacks last year with nine. Bennett also ranked 21st out of 109 edge defenders in PFF’s pressure rate. He had the second most quarterback hits in the NFL.
The Eagles will have to find a way to replace his production in 2019.
2 - At least the Eagles got something for him
The Eagles certainly didn’t receive much value back in the Bennett trade. They merely swapped their 2020 seventh-round pick for the Patriots’ 2020 fifth-round pick.
The average seventh-rounder is worth about eight points on the NFL Draft pick value chart. The average fifth-rounder is worth about 34.2 points. The difference there is 26.2, which is exactly the listed value for the third pick in the sixth round. In other words, it’s essentially like the Eagles traded Bennett for a sixth-rounder.
You can also look at the trade like the Eagles basically undid what it took to get Bennett last year. So he effectively ended up being a free, one-year rental.
In any case, getting something for Bennett is obviously preferable to cutting him. It sucks that this move potentially helps the Patriots but it’s better them than an NFC team.
3 - It wasn’t a no-brainer to simply keep Bennett
I’ve seen some outrage that this was simply a dumb trade by the Eagles. I don’t agree.
That’s not to say I think it’s a great trade. I just think there’s some nuance to deal with here. I think people need to have perspective.
As I explained at length on the most recent BGN Radio episode, there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to Bennett.
First, there was the issue of cap space. Bennett was set to make $7.2 million with the Eagles in 2018. That was a bargain for the team as Bennett wasn’t even being paid top 20 edge rusher money. Of course, Bennett publicly stated he wants to be paid even more than he’s already set to make this season. It’s his right to feel that way; he’s definitely deserving of a pay bump.
But the Eagles are already in a spot where they’re tight on cap space so it’s not as simple as paying him more. Especially when you take some important off-field factors into account.
Let’s not forget that Bennett is still facing a court date due to his felony indictment from last year. Even if Bennett manages to avoid legal punishment for the injury to elderly charge alleged against him, he could still be facing league punishment via the NFL’s personnel conduct policy. We saw how it took a long time before Ezekiel Elliott and Nigel Bradham finally received suspensions following off-field incidents. It would not shock me if Bennett faces discipline at some point.
There’s also the issue of Bennett in the locker room. He clearly did not seem thrilled with his role in the Eagles’ pass rush rotation last year prior to Derek Barnett’s season-ending injury. Howard Eskin also chimed in with this:
I think #Eagles need to find a replacement , but in checking I’m hearing Michael Bennett graded out poorly against run. Just cared about sacks, hits and hurries. Refused to switch sides. Was his mistake on Peterson 99 yard run and sone players didn’t like him. @SportsRadioWIP https://t.co/1Wze0hUKHa— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) March 8, 2019
Bennett is a very good player but I have a hard time looking at all these other factors and thinking it’s a slam dunk to pay him whatever he wants. And I didn’t even mention the risk of his production falling off, which doesn’t seem impossible considering he turns 34 this season.
4 - I think Chris Long is probably back in 2019
Just my (educated) guess but I don’t think the Eagles move on from Bennett if they think Long wasn’t going to return this season.
I think moving on from Bennett helps convince Long to not retire. After the season, Long talked about “sitting back and seeing what the Eagles do and who they bring in or don’t bring in and how deep that [defensive end] room gets.” Bennett being gone ensures that Long will still have a significant role in 2019.
With Brandon Graham getting a contract extension, I think the Eagles found themselves picking between keeping one of Long or Bennett. Bennett is the superior player but he also wanted a pay raise and has some red flags off the field. Long is (seemingly) fine with his contract and just won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
5 - The Eagles’ defensive end cupboard is not bare
The Eagles still have a pretty good group of edge rushers.
Brandon Graham’s production took a dip in 2018 but he had ankle surgery in May that clearly limited him. I’m confident he’ll be better in 2019.
2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, who is still only 22 years old, is entering his third NFL season. He was showing signs of improvement prior to his season-ending shoulder injury in 2018. There’s reason to be optimistic about his outlook.
Long is currently under contract for 2019. If he doesn’t retire, the Eagles will be returning a player who ranked 35th out of 109 edge rushers in PFF’s pressure rate. He also ranked sixth overall among NFL edge rushers in quarterback hits with 30.
Josh Sweat didn’t show much as a rookie but he’s an athletic freak who many considered to be a “massive steal” for the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sweat must prove he can stay healthy.
Daeshon Hall is no lock to make the 2019 roster but he flashed in a super, super small sample size late during the 2018 season. The 2017 third-round pick had three tackles, 0.5 sack, and one quarterback hurry on just 16 snaps.
2018 undrafted free agent signing Joe Ostman drew a lot of praise from the coaching staff for his great work on the practice squad. He might not be more than a scout team player but he was the NCAA’s sack leader in 2017 so he’s at least worth a look heading into 2019.
6 - The Eagles can still add more pass rushers
The Eagles still have a myriad of options at defensive end. The 2019 NFL Draft is thought be historically loaded with defensive line talent. There are also a number of quality edge players available in free agency.
If the Eagles are looking for an “old guy” to replace Bennett’s role, there are some guys on the market with connections to the Eagles. Take Cameron Wake, for example, who played under former Dolphins defensive coordinator and current Eagles defensive special assistant Matt Burke over the last three seasons. Or how about Terrell Suggs, who overlapped with Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas in Baltimore for 12 years?
Here’s a name that’s even more familiar: Vinny Curry. The former Eagles draft pick is on the market after the Buccaneers released him last month.
Those are just free agent options. The Eagles will almost certainly draft some defensive line talent with at least one of their first three picks in the first two rounds.
Let’s maybe see what else the Eagles have planned at defensive end this offseason before crucifying Howie Roseman for this Bennett trade.