Michael Bennett trade grade: Cowboys give up little to add high-upside depth; Patriots eliminate a problem
The Cowboys aren’t taking a big risk in acquiring Michael Bennett
Jeff Kerr, @JeffKerrCBS Oct 24, 2019 at 8:15 pm ET • 3 min read
The New England Patriots didn’t take long to find a suitor for disgruntled defensive end Michael Bennett. trading him to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2021 seventh-round pick that can turn into a sixth-round pick, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. The Patriots just wanted to get Bennett out of New England, after previously suspending him, while the Cowboys added a proven situational pass rusher as they make their run at the NFC East title.
Here are the trade grades for each team:
Cowboys Trade Grade: A-
The Cowboys can’t be upset with this deal, especially since they are most likely giving up just a seventh-round pick (in 2021 no less) for a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end that thrives in a 4-3 scheme. Bennett last was in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 and had his best season in years as a situational pass rusher in a 4-3 scheme. Bennett was one of the NFL’s most productive edge rushers in the second half of the 2018 season, finishing with 68 pressures, 37 hurries and 22 stops in just 716 snaps (after 70 pressures, 44 hurries and 32 stops in 931 snaps in 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks).
This is what the Cowboys are getting in Bennett, an edge rusher that can line up on the right side of the line that can rotate inside. He’s a huge upgrade over Tyrone Crawford, who previously had that role. Bennett can line up opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence and free him up with one-on-one matchups on the left side while giving Robert Quinn a breather. Cowboys defensive line coach Kris Richard, who worked with Bennett with the Seahawks, could also put Bennett, Quinn, and Lawrence on the field at the same time, making the Cowboys’ third-down pass rush one of the best in the game. In the past, Bennett has also found success rushing the passer while lined up on the inside at defensive tackle — keep an eye on this.
The Cowboys aren’t paying much for Bennett in terms of salary, as Bennett is owed just $3.66 million for the remainder of the 2019 season. Dallas even has an out in the deal as the Cowboys can save $8.25 million in cap space if they decide to part ways with Bennett after the season. Bennett’s problems off the field and in a locker room can not be ignored, but Dallas is banking on production for nine games out of him. It’s a good bet they’ll get the Michael Bennett that produces on the field rather than any of the other distractions.
Patriots Trade Grade: C+
The Patriots were able to get Bennett off their roster, but this trade wasn’t beneficial to New England. Bennett’s brief tenure with the Patriots was a disaster, playing just 130 of the defensive snaps through Week 7 (slightly over 30%) and tallying just 2.5 sacks, five tackles, and four quarterback hits. The Patriots switched to a 3-4 defense after giving a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Bennett and only got (at best) a 2021 sixth-round pick back. Day 3 picks are crapshoots anyway, but the Patriots did lose value in the Bennett deal (while the Eagles “won” the trade from March).
Not only was Bennett not a part of the defense, but he was a problem off the field. Bennett, frustrated for lack of playing time (which is typically a problem with him), was suspended by the team in Week 7 after voicing his frustration about his role within the defense to his position coach. When Bennett is not playing, he is unhappy. The Patriots’ defense will be just as dominant without Bennett around, so they decided to cut bait and rid themselves of his contract.
Bennett was a problem the Patriots just didn’t want to deal with. Bill Belichick and the Patriots aren’t afraid to admit Bennett didn’t work out in New England, but they also created the problem by thinking Bennett could play in a 3-4 defense. The grass wasn’t greener on the other side for Bennett, nor the Patriots. They couldn’t get more than a seventh-round pick for Bennett speaks volumes on how much of a problem Bennett is and the challenge New England took on. The Patriots will view this trade as a win (and it is for their organization), but they shouldn’t have acquired Bennett in the first place.