Felony charge dropped against former Eagles DE Michael Bennett

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Felony charge dropped against former Eagles DE Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is having a good week. 

First, the Patriots gave him that new contract he wanted. Now, Harris County, Texas, has dropped that felony charge for allegedly injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman on Feb. 5 after Super Bowl LI in Houston. 

According to court records, the motion to dismiss the case stated: “Probable cause exists, but case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at this time.” 

This end a year-long saga that began shortly after the Eagles acquired Bennett in a trade and ended after they traded him away. Bennett, now 33, played the entire 2018 season with this charge hanging over his head. 

Vivian King, the chief of staff for Harris County DA Kim Ogg, said the following in a statement: 

After looking at all the evidence and applying the law, a crime could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There was probable cause to warrant a charge initially, but after a careful review of all the pre-charge and post-charge evidence, we cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

This has seemed like a likely outcome from the jump, despite the harsh and grandstanding words of Houston police chief Art Acevedo when charges were announced. Despite enough hard evidence, Acevedo called Bennett “morally bankrupt” and seemed keen on making an example of a high-profile NFL player. 

Bennett’s high-profile attorney, Rusty Hardin, remained adamant about his client’s innocence, telling NBC Sports Philadelphia last year that Bennett “just didn’t do it.” 

“We dismissed this case in the interest of justice,” King said. “After looking at all the evidence, this was the right thing to do.” 

Arraignment dates were pushed back multiple times for different reasons over the last year. Now, the long saga is over.

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Patriots give Michael Bennett that new contract he wanted

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Patriots give Michael Bennett that new contract he wanted

The Eagles were already planning to move on from Michael Bennett when he went on NFL Network and said he wanted a pay raise.

Later that day, the Eagles traded Bennett to the Patriots with a 2020 seventh-round pick for a fifth-round pick in 2020. 

And now Bennett got the pay raise he wanted. 

Creating $700,000 in cap space for 2019 is pretty minimal. While Bennett said he wanted a pay raise, it was much more likely the Eagles would have preferred to trim his salary had they kept him on the roster. That, paired with a potentially limited role, would have led to an awkward situation in Philly. Bennett already had a personality that wasn’t for everyone. 

When asked about Bennett last week at the NFL owners meetings, head coach Doug Pederson said the trade gave Bennett the chance to be a starter, which was “what he wanted to do.” 

It’s likely a big reason Bennett wanted a reworked contract was because there was no more guaranteed money left on his deal. The Eagles traded him without leaving any dead money and they could have cut him without leaving dead money too. With the trade, the Eagles saved his entire cap hit of $7.2 million in 2019.  

Without seeing the full contract, this is a relatively modest pay raise, but it does come with $4 million in Bennett’s pocket immediately. His original deal included base salaries of $6 million in 2019 and $7.5 million in 2020 with $1 million each season in per-game roster bonuses. That comes to $15.5 million, not that much less than the base value of his new deal, but apparently there are incentives of some sort in his new contract. By the way, it’s rare for the Patriots to re-do deals like this, so they must want to make Bennett happy. And the 33-year-old has stayed productive. 

The Eagles will clearly miss Bennett’s production. Even after a slow start, he had nine sacks in 2018 and was their most consistent and best defensive end. But it also seemed pretty clear the Eagles weren’t going to commit to him either. That’s why they were willing to trade him away for a modest pick swap. They got a little something instead of nothing. 

Without Bennett, the Eagles will start Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett at defensive end. They’ll bring Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat (and maybe Chris Long, if he doesn’t retire) off the bench. And it’s also very possible they add another defensive end in the draft later this month. 

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Michael Bennett trade creates new challenge for Eagles

Michael Bennett trade creates new challenge for Eagles

I love what Michael Bennett brought to the Eagles last year. Incredible energy, a healthy dose of swagger and big-time pass rush over the second half of the season.

That said, this was a no-brainer (see reported trade).

Once he said these words on NFL Network Friday morning, he was done here:

I’m not willing to take a pay cut. I actually want a pay raise at this point.

He can still play. He had 10 sacks last year, including one in the playoffs.

But the last thing the Eagles need is a disgruntled Michael Bennett. And the last thing they could afford to do was give a raise to a 33-year-old part-time player who’s already on the books for a $7.2 million cap hit this year and $8 million next year.

Any time any player starts making demands, it’s the beginning of the end. Because no competent GM is going to let a player threaten his way to a new contract. Give in, and 52 other players are going to be at the GM’s door the next morning making similar threats.

Howie Roseman is navigating the Eagles out of salary cap hell, not back into it.

And if shedding Bennett leaves them with a huge cap savings, not a penny of dead money and a draft pick or picks, that is one heck of a move.

Bennett turns 34 halfway through the 2019 season, and as productive as he was last year, he’s at an age in which the end is likely near.

He projects right now as one of the 30 highest-paid defensive ends in the NFL for 2019, and only 11 defensive ends in NFL history have ever hit double figures in sacks in a season in which they’ve been 34.

Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Chris Doleman and Too Tall Jones are in that group.

So the analytics tell you to move on and common sense tells you to move on and the salary cap tells you to move on.

But moving on from Bennett does leave the Eagles with a hole on the D-line.

And the key to all of this is Derek Barnett.

He has to become what Michael Bennett was.

Really, all we know about the defensive end position is that Brandon Graham will be back doing his thing, and Barnett will be here for his third season after a promising rookie year and an injury-shortened second year.

As for Chris Long, if he’s back, it’s a bonus. And maybe Bennett leaving makes Long's return more likely, since there will be more reps to go around. Fourth-round pick Josh Sweat comes back, but he’s an unknown quantity.

The whole key to sustaining success in the NFL is constantly getting younger and cheaper without losing production. Every time you lose a veteran because of financial considerations, you have to be able to replace him with a cheaper version who is just as good.

This is why the draft is the lifeblood of every elite NFL team and why Joe Douglas is such a crucial part of the Eagles’ front office.

Barnett, the 14th pick in the 2017 draft, has to be a stud. 

Has to be.

Barnett is on the books for 2019 and 2020 with cap numbers of $3,504,815 and $4,088,882, which is a good dose of cap money, but he’s a first-round pick and now he has to play like one.

There’ve been some good signs so far with Barnett. He had five sacks as a rookie, and his 7½ sacks are fourth-most ever by an Eagle in his first 21 games, behind only Mike Mamula (11½), Corey Simon (11½) and Trent Cole (11).

Other than Marcus Smith in 2014, the Eagles have done pretty well lately in the first round — Fletcher Cox in 2012, Lane Johnson in 2013, Nelson Agholor in 2015 and Carson Wentz in 2016.

All key guys on a Super Bowl championship team.

Now it’s Barnett's turn to take the next step.

He needs to become that 10-to-12 sack guy playing alongside B.G. If he can do that, nobody will remember Michael Bennett and his contract demands.

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