It's almost as though the Patriots can't get rid of their fifth-round picks fast enough. They've made just two selections in the fifth round in the last seven years.
If they can acquire useful players by trading a Day 3 pick that another team values, then why not?
That's exactly what the Patriots did on Friday, dealing away a 2020 fifth-rounder (they don't own a fifth in this year's draft) for Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett and a seventh-round pick.
Describing Bennett as "useful" would be an understatement. He had 9.0 sacks for Philadelphia, and according to Pro Football Focus, only two players in the league have had more pressures since 2014. Last season, Bennett was credited by PFF with 20 quarterback hits (second in the league among edge defenders) and 37 hurries (19th).
At 33, it looks like Bennett still has plenty of juice, plus he provides the Patriots with a pass-rushing threat from both the edge and the interior. He's primarily played off the left edge the last two seasons, but (as he showed against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX) he has experience creating havoc from a variety of different positions along the defensive line.
Ernie Adams, on the NE offensive game plan in Super Bowl XLIX for the "Do Your Job special," said Michael Bennett was the priority.— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) March 8, 2019
"No. 1, offensively, we had to block a fabulous player, Bennett, No. 72. Truth is, we didn't really block him all day." https://t.co/sMDOziSUi4
Bennett is a different player than he was five years ago. He's not the same every-down disruptor that he was for the Seahawks. Seventy-five percent of his snaps last season came against the pass. But should the Patriots end up losing Trey Flowers in free agency, while Bennett wouldn't be able to replace everything Flowers provided the Patriots, his acquisition would provide the team some measure of insurance -- particularly as a versatile pass-rusher, since Flowers is someone who will play a variety of techniques along the line.
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If the Patriots can end up retaining Flowers, he and Bennett would make a formidable pair on the edges. And should New England decide to part ways with defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the cap room saved ($5.94 million) would almost cancel the cap hit absorbed by Bennett for 2019 ($7.2 million).
Based on Bennett's relatively manageable salary and his recent productivity, what the Patriots gave up to get him makes the deal that much more palatable from their perspective.
The Patriots generally hate picking in the fifth round. Yes, they've had fifth-round successes like Dan Koppen, Matthew Slater and Marcus Cannon in years past, but in the last seven drafts, they've made just two fifth-round choices: Ja'Whaun Bentley (2018) and Joe Cardona (2015).
Why? According to some of the numbers compiled in this piece by Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald, the odds of finding a significant contributor in the fifth round aren't all that different from the sixth, seventh or undrafted free agency. If another team wants to value those fifth-rounders more than the Patriots do, they're happy to give it up to get a known veteran in house. And if a Day 3 pick comes back to New England as part of the deal -- as it does in the Bennett trade -- even better.
The Patriots have dealt fifths in recent years for Albert Haynesworth (2011), Isaac Sopoaga ('13), Keshawn Martin ('15), Barkevious Mingo ('16), James O'Shaughnessy ('17), Cassius Marsh ('17), Cordarrelle Patterson ('18), and Josh Gordon ('18).
By trading for Bennett, the Patriots get the added benefit of not having his acquisition work against them in next year's compensatory pick formula. Had they tried to acquire a free-agent edge defender as Flowers insurance when the new league year begins, someone such as Ziggy Ansah or Alex Okafor, that player would have impacted New England’s compensatory pick formula in 2020.
Given the cost, and given Bennett’s level of production in 2018, he has the chance to give the Patriots the best return they've seen from any of their many fifth-round trades.
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