The Eagles reportedly spoke to teams about trading Michael Bennett. Bennett is set to have a $7.2 million cap hit in 2019, but was also one of the teams best defensive lineman in 2018. It raises the question: should the Eagles really be shopping Bennett?
Parting ways with Bennett was a possibility that was noted when the re-signing on Brandon Graham was announced. Between Bennett, whose cap number was previously noted, and Chris Long, who is set to make $5 million in 2019, it would be difficult to keep both with Graham now set to make $13 million annually.
The Eagles are looking to optimize their cap space with free agency quickly approaching, and they have been linked to potentially high-value players such as Le’Veon Bell and Tevin Coleman. Along with players of that nature, the Eagles also have some key free agents themselves in Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks, Golden Tate, Jay Ajayi, and more.
Obviously, it’s impossible to sign (or re-sign) everyone, but Howie Roseman has stressed the teams intentions to not be limited in cap this offseason in order to make some moves.
When considering the Eagles’ situation with Bennett, it’s important to look at his age, his usage, the depth at the position, and the potential return Bennett would get in a trade.
Here is a look at why trading Bennett would be a good move, and why it would be a bad move:
Bennett is 33 years old, and is due more than $15 million over the next two years.
Before Derek Barnett went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, Bennett wasn’t getting nearly the amount of snaps one would have expected, and Bennett was frustrated with it.
Going into 2019, Bennett is very unlikely to line up as a starting defensive end for the Eagles. At $7.2 million, that may be too much to be paying a player to be a backup, especially when that money can be allocated elsewhere to fill a more important need.
The Eagles also have three top-60 picks in this years draft, and could very well use one of those picks to select a defensive end that would be cheaper than Bennett.
The Eagles could get ahead of the game and deal Bennett, which would open up cap space and allow them to pursue a younger defensive end option as well.
There are reasons why moving Bennett would be a good idea, but there are certainly reasons as to why it’d be a bad idea.
When it comes down to it, when a team has good players, they must hang on to them. Though Bennett was more of a secondary piece on the defensive line when Barnett was active, his play itself wasn’t affected too much.
In six games with Barnett, Bennett had 14 total tackles and 3.0 sacks. In 10 games without Barnett, Bennett had 20 total tackles and 6.0 sacks. That means with Barnett, Bennett was averaging 2.3 tackles per game and 0.50 sacks, and without Barnett, Bennett was averaging 2.0 tackles per game and 0.60 sacks. All in all, Bennett was putting up very similar numbers with and without Barnett.
The Eagles can also approach Bennett about restructuring his deal, but the reports of them shopping Bennett may mean he wasn’t interested in that. Regardless, the difference between Bennett and Long is just $2 million, which means the Eagles necessarily don’t have to choose Bennett as the moving part here. Plus, Long may not even be playing football in 2019.
Coming into 2019, the depth on the defensive front is far thinner than it was in 2018. At defensive end, the Eagles have Graham and Barnett, but with Bennett and Long both questionable, there is no one really left to depend upon behind those two starters. At defensive tackle, there is Fletcher Cox and the presumed rookie that will be selected in the draft, but not much else. Timmy Jernigan was cut to free up $13 million and there’s no guarantee he returns on a cheaper deal.
Lastly, it’s important to re-emphasize this: Bennett was one of the best defensive lineman for the Eagles last season, and showed the versatility to move both inside and outside.
It’s understandable to want as much cap space as possible to pursue multiple free agents, but it’s also important to hang onto your own when they perform at a high level.
Bennett is on the last year of his contract, and he is getting paid more than one would like at his age, but he provides too much on the Eagles front-line defensively to trade away.
Bennett warranted the Seahawks a fifth-round pick when the Eagles traded for him, and it’s unlikely the Eagles would get much better in a trade this time around.
With the uncertainty of Long and the money that could be opened up depending on his future, moving on from Bennett this early would be premature, and all in all wouldn’t be worth it.
The Eagles may be better off being proactive on Long instead of waiting around for his decision, and hanging onto Bennett. The Eagles would also be able to hold onto Bennett and Long if they really desired to, but it depends on just how aggressive the team wants to be in free agency.
At the end of the day, trading Bennett would not be a good idea for the Eagles, regardless of his price tag.
Photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports