Why the Patriots' trade for Michael Bennett makes sense

Why the Patriots' trade for Michael Bennett makes sense

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.

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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Dolphins player: Referee told me to 'stay off' Patriots QB Tom Brady after legal hit

Dolphins player: Referee told me to 'stay off' Patriots QB Tom Brady after legal hit

The NFL has been accused of doing too much to protect quarterbacks over the last decade or so, and Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan's latest comments won't do much to put an end to that view point.

McMillan told reporters Wednesday that the referee in Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Dolphins and New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium told the Miami linebacker to "stay off" quarterback Tom Brady after a legal hit. Referee Bill Vinovich and his crew officiated the game.

It's impossible to know this official's rationale without hearing his side of the story. Maybe he felt that while McMillan's hit was legal, it was close to roughing the passer and he wanted to help the Dolphins linebacker avoid a 15-yard penalty later in the game. Or, it's possible, he didn't want the game to get out of hand given the lopsided scoreline throughout the afternoon. The Patriots ultimately won 43-0.

In fairness to the NFL, the rule changes it has made in recent years to protect quarterbacks were smart decisions. Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, both in terms of on-field performance and success from a business perspective. These players are the league's most marketable stars. In fact, a recent poll of league executives and other experts concluded that six of the 10 most marketable players in football were quarterbacks, led by Brady and Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes (in that order).

Brady was on the injury report Wednesday with a calf injury, but it's not known if it happened on McMillan's hit.

McMillan's frustration is understandable, but we shouldn't be surprised that referees in 2019 are looking out for the safety of quarterbacks. And we should expect more caution going forward given the recent injuries to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Aaron Rodgers has great reaction to Tom Brady's critics>>>

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Aaron Rodgers has great response to critics of Patriots QB Tom Brady

Aaron Rodgers has great response to critics of Patriots QB Tom Brady

Some of the criticism thrown at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is just silly.

The most famous hot take on Brady's alleged decline came in the summer of 2016 when Max Kellerman said on ESPN's "First Take" that Brady would soon "fall off a cliff." Well, in the three years since Kellerman's bold remark, Brady has won two more Super Bowl titles (in three appearances) and an MVP award. 

Sometimes, you just have to laugh at these critics.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted to doing that during his appearance Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz." Here's the exchange:

Question: Do you look at Brady the way we all do? Like, what the hell? He's 42, what the hell, Aaron.

Rodgers: "I do. I think I laugh with him a little bit when they replay some of the remarks, especially after that Chiefs game I think a lot of us remember from (2014) when the Chiefs kind of blew them out on a Sunday or Monday night and everyone was (saying), 'This is it. Brady's done. The Pats are done.' You look at what they've done since then. That's the beauty at times in this sport and playing, for him, at obviously such a high level. Sometimes you're looking around and you're like, 'Man, maybe I need some inspiration this week,' and having something like that to go back to whenever you want. People are just waiting for him to like regress, and it's like, it's not happening. Not happening. But the first time he has a game he doesn't throw three (touchdowns), it's gonna be like, 'Here it is. Here's the beginning.' And sure enough, there's a little more ammo for him to be like, 'What you say? Oh yeah? OK, cool. I'm going back to the Super Bowl.'" 

Rodgers has faced his own share of criticism over the last few years as the Packers have struggled to find playoff success, so he has a bit of an understanding of what Brady has dealt with over the last decade or so.

Brady and Rodgers went head-to-head last season for just the second time, and the Patriots prevailed in a 31-17 win at Gillette Stadium. It's possible that meeting was the last one before Brady retires, unless of course they square off in the Super Bowl.

And, judging by the way the Patriots and Packers have played through two games this season, a Brady-Rodgers showdown in Super Bowl LIV certainly is a possibility.

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