The Eagles re-signed one pass rusher at the NFL Scouting Combine last week, but were reportedly busy shopping another.
According to Geoff Mosher, the Eagles discussed potential trades for defensive end Michael Bennett, using the combine to gauge the 10-year veteran’s value around the league.
The Eagles acquired Bennett and a seventh-round draft pick from the Seahawks last march in exchange for a fifth-round choice and wide receiver Marcus Johnson.
It was considered a steal for a pass rusher coming off three straight trips to the Pro Bowl, and Bennett lived up the hype. He was easily the Eagles’ most productive end, finishing 2018 with 15 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks and 30 quarterback hits — the latter good for fourth in the NFL.
Bennett added three tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and three quarterback hits in two playoff games.
Despite the stellar campaign, the Eagles might be motivated to move Bennett for a variety of reasons.
Bennett turned 33 in November and is one of three ends on the roster over 30. And what seemed like a frivolous criminal indictment for injury to the elderly continues to linger in court almost a year later.
Most of all, the Eagles are up against the salary cap, especially after re-signing fellow defensive end Brandon Graham to a three-year extension worth $40 million over the weekend. Bennett counts for $7.2 million under the cap in 2019, and $8 million in 2020.
Still, unless the Eagles are getting far stronger offers for Bennett than what they ultimately traded a year ago, the prospect of a trade might not sound very appealing.
Another year older and with a reputation for being difficult, Bennett isn’t likely to be worth a great deal more now, even after a dominant season in which he played only 69 percent of the defensive snaps.
The Eagles would be taking a significant gamble they could replace his production, too. Graham is coming off a down year rushing the passer, Chris Long turns 34 and Derek Barnett is returning from a season-ending shoulder injury.
Mosher believes a dwindling crop of free-agent pass rushers could increase Bennett’s value, however. The upcoming draft is also reportedly very deep along the defensive line, with Eagles vice president of football operations describing the class as “historic,” presenting a natural opportunity to get younger.
From a pure football standpoint, holding on to Bennett probably makes the most sense. Despite his age, he was a force last season, and the only known issues were his reported desire to play more and the charges, which most expect will be dropped.
But if the Eagles are going to re-sign the likes of Graham, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo and whoever, AND be aggressive in free agency, AND possibly draft another end, the money and roster spot need to come from somewhere.
With all that in mind, it can’t hurt to see what Bennett would fetch at least.
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