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Why the Michael Bennett trade is a great move for the Patriots

Read more: Martellus Bennett wants to come out of retirement to play with the Patriots.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, a report broke that the New England Patriots will acquire defensive edge Michael Bennett from the Philadelphia Eagles. The 2018 champions and the 2017 champions will exchange day three draft picks next year as part of the trade, with the Patriots sending a fifth-rounder to Philadelphia in exchange for Bennett and a seventh-round selection — a great move for New England, and here’s why.

Acquiring Bennett cost the Patriots nearly nothing

While Bennett does carry a salary cap hit of $7.0 million in 2019, bringing the veteran on board actually cost New England little: as noted above, the two clubs exchange late-round selections in order to complete the trade. While the Patriots’ draft position on day three of the 2020 draft worsens because of the transaction, the actual value of the affected pick should not be impacted too much:

All draft selections after the middle of the fifth round are essentially a coin flip, so moving down the board in order to pick up a proven commodity like Bennett is a smart move — and not unlike others the Patriots have made in the past. Just last year, the club acquired three players in similar fashion in Jason McCourty, Cordarrelle Patterson and Danny Shelton.

New England adds versatility to its defensive line...

One of Bennett’s main characteristics as a defender is his ability to line up in multiple techniques along the defensive line and still be successful. Advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus tracked his usage since the 2015 season, when he was still with the Seattle Seahawks, and the data shows how the defender was used:

While Bennett did spend most of his time on the edge over the last four seasons, he also was moved inside fairly regularly. And even when not playing in his natural positions at the end of the line, the veteran still produced as the 13.6% pressure rate illustrates (compared to 14.1% on the edge). Safe to say that New England got itself a player capable of wearing many hats equally well — something that was on full display in 2018.

According to Pats Pulpit alumnus and CLNS Media writer Evan Lazar, Bennett played 12 different front-seven positions during his first and only season with the Eagles last year:

LEO: 368 snaps

REO: 197 snaps

LE: 148 snaps

RE: 42 snaps

DLT: 30 snaps

LOLB: 19 snaps

ROLB: 8 snaps

DRT: 7 snaps

NLT: 5 snaps

LILB: 3 snaps

NRT: 2 snaps

NT: 1 snaps

Don’t be surprised if New England uses the 33-year old in a similar fashion next season.

...and insurance in case Trey Flowers leaves

While Bennett will not serve as a one-for-one replacement in case Trey Flowers leaves the Patriots, having him on board could help soften the potential blow of the 25-year old departing via free agency. After all, Bennett — like Flowers — has been a highly productive player no matter the team he was on or the role he was used in:

Michael Bennett vs Trey Flowers (2018 regular season)

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Tackles Forced Fumbles
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Tackles Forced Fumbles
Michael Bennett 69.0% 9.0 30 29 34 2
Trey Flowers 70.2% 7.5 22 31 57 3

Bennett’s potential impact goes beyond potential Trey Flowers replacement, though: depending on free agency and the draft, he could also challenge Adrian Clayborn’s standing on the roster. The ex-Eagle therefore gives New England flexibility beyond his on-field usage: his addition would allow the Patriots to make follow-up moves, particularly if Flowers cannot be retained.

Moving on from Bennett wouldn’t add dead cap

When the Eagles acquired Bennett last offseason — they sent wide receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for the defender and a seventh-rounder — they naturally took on his contract, a three-year $29.5 million extension he signed in December 2016. With the first year of the extension now over, the Patriots get Bennett on a deal that does not include any guaranteed money.

So if the Patriots opted to release the veteran defender again, they would not put on any dead salary cap. While seeing something like that happen would be a surprise, the structure of Bennett’s deal is rather team friendly — particularly for a player of his caliber, experience and proven productivity.