Patriots

The Patriots have three options with Michael Bennett

The Patriots have three options with Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett says he got into it with defensive line coach Bret Bielema last Friday.

That would be the day after the Patriots improved to 6-0 with another vivisection of an opposing offense (the New York Giants).

Despite the team’s unprecedented defensive success, Bennett was — according to his version — irked enough to get into it with Bielema. We can presume — again, based on Bennett’s explanation — the conversation over what Bennett described as “philosophical differences” was pretty contentious.

Being suspended and docked a game check is a lot more serious than being sent to timeout and getting benched, which is what happened with former Patriots like Alan Branch (and probably others) in years past.

I’m not inclined to take Bennett’s characterization of the dustup at face value. Or even believe that it was just the position coach or was merely over philosophy (although a Hobbes vs. Locke discussion over the state of nature can escalate).

Just because he’s first out of the gate with a “statement” of what he says happened, that doesn’t mean we all just shrug and think that’s precisely what went down. Was it just Bennett and Bielema? Was it physical and philosophical? How many teammates did it take place in front of? You’ll notice Bennett’s apology didn’t extend to the coaches, just the teammates if he caused a distraction.

Bennett’ has played with four teams in his career.

He led the charge to get head coach Greg Schiano fired in Tampa. While in Seattle, he described Pete Carroll as Willy Wonka and reportedly was so disengaged from doing what the rest of the defensive linemen were doing that he would read during team meetings. In his single season with the Eagles in 2018, he went out of his way to talk about how head coach Doug Pederson “respects you like a man” and that — because of that — players needed to win to keep Pederson around. I mean, what’s the alternative? Lose on purpose so he gets fired?

You can’t fault the Patriots for acquiring him in early March. They’d just lost Trey Flowers. They couldn’t know that they’d get back a skinnier and much improved Danny Shelton, see the second-year jump they got from Adam Butler, add Jamie Collins, unearth a very good third-down pass-rusher in Chase Winovich and — in short â€” morph into a defense where Bennett’s playing style and body type are a poor match.

Bennett hasn’t been playing much. When he has played, he’s given effort but not been outstanding (as this very detailed breakdown by Phil Perry shows).

And while you absolutely can fault Bennett for being a dink last Friday (again, if that’s what truly happened), one can appreciate his frustration. The Patriots knew how he played. They traded for him. They gave him a two-year deal and a raise. If one takes pride in his craft, one wants to ply his craft. And Bennett is not being allowed to, regardless of the reason.

So what now? The options aren’t clear.

Ride It Out

There are 10 games left to play and there’s a damn good chance that number could be 13 (actually, nine and 12 for Bennett). I find it hard to believe that Bennett’s particular set of skills won’t be valuable at some point over the next four months. Against Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes or Dak Prescott — all quarterbacks more mobile than the majority of QBs the team has seen so far — Bennett may have more to offer than Deatrich Wise or Lawrence Guy in certain situations.

The Patriots can’t be loving the fact they’re paying Bennett to watch 45 plays a week. For two decades, they’ve shown an aptitude for finding roles for players. I have no doubt they’ve been trying to do that with Bennett and haven’t found the right formula yet. If Bennett’s tirade wasn’t a scorched-earth takedown of Bielema and one the two men can work past, this would probably be the preferred option.

It’s beneficial for teams to have good players. Bennett is a good player. How much do they have to suck it up to make him happy? Will he ever be happy unless everything’s going his way and he’s getting treated as he sees fit? The Patriots will have to answer that question first.

Trade Him

For years, Bennett has derided coaches for being mean like Bill Belichick. The Patriots took a chance, addressed a need, paid some money and it didn’t work out. It’s easy to read the direction things are going and where they’ve been: Bennett doesn’t like his role, doesn’t like the atmosphere and doesn’t like Bielema. So the Patriots should get while the getting’s semi-good, even though it’s another few million of Bob Kraft’s money that Belichick is taking a flamethrower to.

The hard part about trading a nearly 34-year-old player who needs to be featured in a specific style of defense is finding a partner willing. Then convincing said partner that Bennett won’t be detrimental to their team and that the $94K per game he’ll be paid is worth it. That team has to still be playing for something to take on Bennett, which will eliminate a good chunk of potential suitors.

The upside for the Patriots is in money saved against the cap — between $2.8M and $2.3M depending on when he’s dealt according to Patriots cap oracle Miguel Benzan and the chance to bring someone in at a position of need. On paper, sending Bennett to the Lions in exchange for Danny Amendola makes sense. And the money shouldn’t be a barrier relative to the cap. But will Bennett be any happier working for Matt Patricia in a Patriots-style system?

Also worth weighing, is whether or not Bennett agrees to report wherever he’s dealt. At this stage of his career, a wildcat strike in order to show his autonomy isn’t beyond imagining. Hell, his brother Martellus shot his way out of Green Bay to get to the Patriots last year!

Release Him

The upside is you’ve washed that man right out of your hair. The downside? You get nothing for the asset except sunk costs and dead money against the cap. Plus, some team the Patriots are directly competing with adds a piece at minimal cost and — potentially â€” gets better.

The Patriots have until October 29 to deal Bennett. Between now and then they have to decide whether, to borrow a phrase from LBJ, they want Bennett inside their tent pissing out or outside their tent pissing in.

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE TO TOM E. CURRAN'S PATRIOTS TALK PODCAST:

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Why Tom Brady picks 45 as the age he wants to play until

Why Tom Brady picks 45 as the age he wants to play until

Whenever Tom Brady is asked about when he plans on calling it a career, it comes back to one number: 45.

The New England Patriots quarterback, now 42, has mentioned on multiple occasions 45 as the age he'd like to play until. But why 45 and not, say, 44 or 46?

Brady explained Wednesday on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria" why he's always going with that specific number.

“I think I have always said 45 just because that’s a good goal to set because that is one that has been pretty hard to get to for most guys. I think you have to have goals — you have daily goals, you have yearly goals and you have long-term goals," Brady said. "I think for me it’s really just the love of football. I don’t know if or when I will ever not love it. That’s the thing.

"I don’t know, it’s just some people are maybe great guitarists, there’s great chefs, there’s great lawyers, there’s great artists, actors, you name it. I think if you really love it, why should you stop? You just love it. I don’t know how to explain it other than I love doing it and that is enough for me.”

At this stage of Brady's career, even as he continues to play at a high level, the six-time Super Bowl champion is constantly faced with questions about his future. Brady, who can become a free agent for the first time after this season, understands why it remains such a popular topic, and he isn't taking his ability to step onto the gridiron at age 42 for granted.

“I think it is a natural question for most athletes that are getting older," Brady said. "It’s not going to last forever, so at some point, it comes to an end and everyone wants to be the first one to predict it. I feel like I am just being honest with myself that I am going to do the best I can do. I feel like everything at this point is just gravy.

"The fact I get to go out and play professional football at 42 is pretty cool. I still love doing it and I still love the competition. I don’t know when that will ever leave. I don’t know if it will ever leave. I don’t know what factors will contribute, but I am trying to be in the moment and the thing about football is it is a contact sport. It’s not basketball, it’s not baseball — really any game could be your last game. I think it is good to have that perspective, too.”

Brady has the Patriots in a position to make yet another Super Bowl run as they enter Week 11 with an 8-1 record. They'll aim to come out of the bye week strong when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a Super Bowl 52 rematch on Sunday.

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Chris Long explains differences between 2016 Patriots and 2017 Eagles

Chris Long explains differences between 2016 Patriots and 2017 Eagles

Chris Long had spent most of his NFL career on losing teams. Then, he went and won back-to-back Super Bowl titles with the 2016 Patriots and the 2017 Eagles.

While the final result for both teams was the same, Long saw plenty of differences with the way Philadelphia went about their business compared to the Patriots. The former defensive end discussed in detail with Tom E. Curran in the latest Patriots Talk Podcast.

"The difference between New England and Philly was like, that was the first time [the Eagles have won the Super Bowl]," Long told Curran. "So whatever it was like when the Patriots won for the first time, that's what I walked into in Philly."

Long also touched on Lane Johnson's comments about Pats players "not having fun" in New England.

"In New England, they tend to do things a different way and it's the Patriot Way, but you also have had 'the GOAT [Tom Brady]' for 20 years and you've got 'The Hoodie' [Bill Belichick]," Long said. "So that continuity... and of course part of that is the way Bill does things and the way they've designed that organization.

"Every organization is different and some are more 'fun' than others. I also consider having a bunch of awesome teammates in New England a lot of fun and I thought winning was a lot of fun because for eight years, I was on crap teams."

You can hear everything Long had to say by listening to the Patriots Talk Podcast below.

Other topics on the show include Long's upcoming media company, "Chalk Media," how athletes deal with social anxiety, Colin Kaepernick's upcoming NFL workout, and Long's new NBA "side team."

Listen to the full episode below (Patriots/Eagles discussion begins at 24:31):

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