Michael Bennett Q&A, Part 1: The challenges of transitioning to Eagles

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Michael Bennett Q&A, Part 1: The challenges of transitioning to Eagles

It’s been a difficult year for Michael Bennett. A frustrating first month, some challenging changes, a hard, honest look at himself and finally some of the best football of his career.

Bennett had just one sack after five games and was frustrated with his lack of playing time, but he has seven sacks in the Eagles’ last nine games and has been dominating lately. 

He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he’s been playing like one.

After practice on Thursday, the 33-year-old defensive end reflected on his season. In Part 1 of our Q&A with Bennett, the veteran defensive lineman talks about his Pro Bowl snub and the challenges he faced early in his first year with the Eagles. 

You can find Part 2 of our Bennett Q&A here.

Q: "Were you disappointed you didn't make the Pro Bowl team?"

A: “I think not starting at the beginning of the season is the reason why you don’t have a chance to be there, but to me it’s one of my best seasons because I felt like there was a lot of adversity, a lot of change for me. I switched from being on the left to doing it on the right and I still made plays. So for me, I feel like it was a productive season. Quarterback hits, pressures and tackles for loss, I was leading (the team) in a lot of those categories, and I think it’s just exciting, actually. And I think next year’s going to be even better. I don’t know if I’m going to be next year, but if I am here.”

Q: "What made this year so challenging?"

A: “Just transitioning in my career later on. I’m transitioning to a whole new organization, having to move my family, having to come to a new system. I’m used to certain ways of playing the game and then having to find a boundary of where that is. I think for me as a player you give so much to a team and an organization and you wonder to yourself, ‘Am I able to give myself at that level? Am I able to give to my teammates? Am I able to give to the city the way I gave to another city?’ And I think for me that was really hard, to find that place, to kind of find that balance of moving on, and I had to be able to move on from Seattle and be able to come here, so there was a lot of adversity for me personally. So at the beginning of the season I was kind of finding my way. Like, ‘Where do I fit in?’ Then I had to just be like, ‘No, I’ve just got to be me and just keep pushing forward.’”

Q: "Have you done that?"

A: “I think I’ve done a great job of that. I think I’ve embraced the city. I love Philly, I love the organization, I love the fans here, and I think the fans like me here, so it’s becoming my own now, you know? And I’m excited about the possibilities.”

Q: "When did things start to click?"

A: “I think after Week 3, after Week 4, it was just hard. Because I wasn’t playing and I wasn’t used to not playing. At critical moments I’m just sitting on the sidelines like, ‘I got skills! And I'm over here! And I can do this! Put me in the game!' Once they started putting me in the game things started flowing my way, and I feel way more comfortable now.”

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NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

On Tuesday night, receiver Stefon Diggs sent the internet into a tizzy when he apparently erased any mention of the Vikings from his Instagram account. 

We’re taking a bit of a leap here (gotta love 2020) but if this is Diggs’ somehow voicing his frustration with the Vikings it wouldn’t be the first time. And it would also basically be a Bat Signal to the other 31 NFL teams: “Come and get me!” 

The Eagles should. 

It’s funny. Before all those rumors began to swirl on Tuesday night, I was on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants and was asked for one potential trade target for the Birds. The name I gave was Diggs. He made sense even before this. While there’s no guarantee the Vikings trade him, it’s worth finding out. 

If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles are in desperate need of help at receiver. It’s why about 85 percent of mock drafts have them taking one in the first round of the draft in a couple months. But any player they pick in the draft is an unknown. Diggs is not. 

There are three big reasons why Diggs should be attractive to the Eagles: 

1. He just turned 26 back in November

The Eagles are committed to getting younger this offseason and getting Diggs now would kind of be like signing a free agent after his rookie deal. The Eagles have been getting older but Diggs would help them get younger. No, he’s not a 21-year-old anymore but he is arguably entering his prime. 

2. Diggs is already one of the best receivers in the NFL

Despite his targets dropping from 149 in 2018 to 94 in 2019 (ostensibly one of the reasons for his displeasure), Diggs still managed to have more receiving yards this past season. Since the 2016 season, Diggs has 313 catches, 3,903 yards and 26 touchdowns. There are just six players in the league with better stats in those four seasons: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. 

What has been impressive about Diggs is that he’s been successful in different ways. After averaging 10.0 yards per catch in 2018, he averaged 17.9 (a career high) in 2019 and was a tremendous deep threat. Just three players in the NFL had a higher yards-per-catch average in 2019. 

The Eagles certainly saw what he can do. In Week 6 against the Birds, he had his best game of the 2019 season. He caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was the only time this season he was targeted over 10 times in a game. 

3. Diggs is relatively cost-controlled for another four seasons

While trading for Diggs will cost draft equity (we’ll get to that soon), his salary will be cheaper than that of a free agent of the same caliber because he’s already locked up. While multiple teams will out-bid each other for free agents and end up over-paying, Diggs has a contract that runs through the 2023 season and it’s a very reasonable contract. By the end of it, there’s a very good chance he’ll be extremely underpaid. Even though he just signed the five-year extension in the summer of 2018, he’s already just the 13th highest-paid NFL receiver in terms of APY, according to OverTheCap. 

Check out his base salaries for the remainder of the contract: 

2020: $10.9M
2021: $11.4M
2022: $11.4M
2023: $11.4M

No, that’s not exactly cheap like a rookie contract would be but it’s very manageable. And once the new CBA is eventually worked out, those prices will probably look even better. And there are some performance escalators written in, but if Diggs hits them, both sides would be happy. 

So what will it take? 

This is the big question. I think we all agree that Diggs is a good player and the Eagles would love to have him. But what would they have to give up in a trade? 

Well, the Vikings are going to start any negotiation with a first-round pick at minimum. They should. All those reasons I listed above are reasons why they should have teams lining up for Diggs. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad things really are between Diggs and the Vikings, though. There was definitely frustration during the 2019 season but he finished out the year. Is it bad enough that it’s an untenable situation? If so, then the Vikings would lose some leverage. 

If it’s a second-round pick, this is an easier conversation. The real question is whether or not the Eagles would be willing to give up a first-round pick. I kind of doubt they’d be willing to but you can make a real case for it. It’s easy to say the Eagles should just focus on the draft and take one of the many talented options with the 21st pick but there’s no guarantee they’ll hit. In fact, their history picking receivers, especially in the last decade, shouldn’t instill much confidence. They have drafted four Day 1 or Day 2 receivers since 2010: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. 

None of them ever became what Diggs is right now. And there’s a good chance any player taken at 21 won’t become what he is either. 

Maybe GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be worried about Diggs’ fit in the building; after all, he has created enough drama in Minnesota to bring all of this up in the first place. Would that eventually happen here? Hard to say. This isn’t a no-brainer but it’s worth a call or two. 

Pick up the phone, Howie. 

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Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

The Eagles decided Tuesday to decline the team option on Nigel Bradham's contract (see story), cutting the 30-year-old linebacker loose after four years in Philly. From the highs of winning a Super Bowl to the lows of his multiple run-ins with law enforcement, Bradham's time with the Eagles was nothing if not entertaining.

Bradham's teammates received the news Tuesday, just like fans did, and a number of his now-former teammates shared their reactions to the team's move on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Brandon Graham lamented the end of his time playing alongside Bradham:

DeSean Jackson and Kamu Grugier-Hill wished Bradham luck in his next NFL stop:

Nate Gerry thanked Bradham for teaching him the ins and outs of the linebacker position, and of life as pro football player:

Rodney McLeod and Nelson Agholor, two players who might not return to Philly in 2020, also shouted Bradham out on Instagram:

One particularly interesting reaction, to my eye, was that of cornerback Rasul Douglas, who opted to use the head-slap emoji in a quote tweet of a report about the move:

Whether that signifies surprise or displeasure, it seems like Douglas would've preferred Bradham return to Philly in 2020.

Instead, free agency is off and running, and the Eagles' sleepy offseason is finally about to heat up.

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