We are 6 days away from the official start to NFL free agency, but that doesn’t mean the rumor mill stops turning. With a multitude of cuts and trades happening, or not happening (cough*Antonio Brown*cough), the Patriots were bound to get in on the action.
A plethora of sources are reporting that New England has traded for the Eagles’ DE Michael Bennett. The trade is reportedly only for draft pick compensation and no players are involved. It is rumored that the Patriots will swap their 2020 5th round pick for Philadelphia’s 2020 7th rounder. However, no trades can be processed until March 14th, so we will officially know then.
This is a bombshell of a report, as the Patriots are well documented in their search for veteran stars. Whether it be Odell Beckham Jr. or some mystery player, New England hasn’t been afraid to poke around. This still reigns true as Michael Bennett is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL.
Setting aside his activities outside of football for now, Bennett is no doubt one of the better defensive players in the league. He finished last year with nine sacks and two forced fumbles, still proving he can get to the quarterback. Bennett was also the sole reason the Seahawks almost beat the Pats in Super Bowl 49, hammering Brady several times.
The first instinct that comes to mind when thinking of this trade is bye-bye Trey Flowers. While this does reinforce the fact that the Patriots might be preparing for Flowers’ departure, it doesn’t 100% guarantee it. Michael Bennett is owed around $7 million dollars for 2019, which is relatively cheap considering his productivity. He also won’t take a pay cut, so that’s off the table. On the other hand, Flowers is going to get paid anywhere from $15-17 million dollars annually.
With the Patriots current cap situation, Flowers and Bennett both can’t be on the team without compromising other depth areas. However, if the Patriots were to cut someone like Adrian Clayborn, it makes more fiscal sense. A Clayborn cut would free up nearly $6 million in cap space, which is only $1 million less than Bennett.
The addition of Bennett most likely means the Patriots are bracing for the departure of Trey Flowers. They probably still believe they can sign him, but players would now need to be cut for that to happen. Adrian Clayborn makes the most sense, but Bill Belichick has been known for his surprise cuts.
While this trade looks like a homerun on paper, there is still the elephant in the room to deal with. Michael Bennett is no stranger to controversy, as he was caught lying to police in Las Vegas before the 2017 season. He was attending the Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor fight, and had an altercation with police afterwards.
Long story short, Bennett attempted to play the race card and claim the police brutally attacked him based on this. This was proven to be absolutely untrue, but Bennett got off without major charges. However, he was indicted for another incident following Super Bowl 51, when he attacked an elderly paraplegic working the game.
These run-ins with the law are certainly not what you want when looking at potential players. New England has housed troubled players in the past, but Bennett is a new breed. Even still, Bill Belichick will not tolerate this behavior whatsoever, and Michael will get firsthand knowledge of this from his brother Martellus, 2 year Patriots veteran.
No matter what you think of Michael Bennett the person, the fact remains he is a good football player. He will upgrade the defensive line and could make a lethal 1-2 punch with Trey Flowers if the Pats resign him. It is safe to assume Belichick will be able to keep Bennett on the right side of the law, but the worry is there.
This reported trade will become official once NFL free agency starts on March 14th.