Michael Bennett (Texas A&M)

This Date In Transactions History: Patriots Trade Michael Bennett To Cowboys

A year ago today, Michael Bennett‘s brief stint with the Patriots came to an end. On October 24, 2019, the veteran defensive end was traded to the Cowboys for a conditional late-round pick.

Following a 2018 campaign with the Eagles where Bennett compiled nine sacks in 16 games, the pass rusher (along with a 2020 seventh-rounder) was traded to New England for a 2020 fifth-rounder. The acquisition initially seemed like a win; while Bennett was forced to play more of a rotational role, he still managed to compile five tackles and 2.5 sacks in six games (one start).

However, in mid-October, Bennett was suspended by the Patriots for conduct detrimental to the team. The veteran reportedly clashed with Pats brass, and he had a lively argument with defensive line coach Bret Bielema.

“It’s America. You can voice your opinion about how you feel about certain situations. That’s what I did,” Bennett said following his suspension. “…I got suspended. Lost money. What am I supposed to take away from that? There’s no love lost. It’s just how it is.”

While Bill Belichick insinuated that Bennett never explicitly asked for a trade, the Patriots were quick to send him out. So, on this date last year, New England and Dallas pulled off the trade. The Patriots haul was reported as a seventh-rounder that could turn into a sixth-rounder. However, the real incentive was the $2.5MM in savings, especially since the Patriots were right up against the cap after acquiring wideout Mohamed Sanu.

With Tyrone Crawford succumbing to injury, the Cowboys were looking for some help on the defensive line. Bennett ended up being relatively productive for Dallas, collecting 27 tackles and four sacks in nine games. The deal also worked out for the Patriots; since Bennett ended up being on the Cowboys active roster for at least four games, the Patriots received a 2021 sixth-rounder instead of the 2021 seventh-rounder.

Bennett made it clear that he wanted to play in 2020 (especially for his former team, the Seahawks), but he wasn’t connected to any suitors throughout the offseason. In July, the 34-year-old announced that he’s retiring from the NFL. The former undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M finished his career having compiled 69.5 sacks in 156 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Michael Bennett Retires From NFL

Michael Bennett is calling it a career. After eleven years in the NFL, the longtime Seahawks defensive end announced his retirement on Instagram

Retiring feels a little like death of self, but I’m looking forward to the rebirth — the opportunity to reimagine my purpose,” Bennett wrote. “I would like to thank my wife and children, who have sacrificed so much for me to succeed. I’m looking forward to supporting them the same way they have me these past 11 years. I have never been more at peace in my life.”

Bennett, 34, went undrafted in 2009 after an up-and-down tenure at Texas A&M. His first deal technically came with the Seahawks, but he didn’t make the final cut, so he moved on to the Buccaneers. In 2013, he returned to Seattle as a free agent, and that’s where he really came into his own. The ’13 Seahawks won the Super Bowl and boasted the league’s best D, thanks in large part to Bennett. With the Seahawks, Bennett went on to rack up three straight Pro Bowl appearances and 39 total sacks across five seasons.

Bennett spent time with the Eagles, Cowboys, and Patriots across the last two seasons and was still solidly productive – he had 15.5 sacks between 2018 and 2019. Still, Bennett was mulling retirement even before the pandemic, and quarantining with the family reminded him of everything he had missed off of the field. With that, Bennett is walking away from the game with 359 tackles, 69.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, and a Super Bowl ring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Edge Rushers Still Available

Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback is critical to a team’s success in today’s NFL, and there are a number of players still languishing on the free agent market who are capable of doing just that. While the pandemic has understandably made teams leery of authorizing big-money contracts, some of the available talent can be had for a fairly minimal commitment, and it would not be surprising to see them come off the board as we get closer (hopefully) to training camp.

So let’s take a look at the best of the unsigned pass rushers.

  1. Jadeveon Clowney: Not many players have been in the news more than Clowney this offseason. By now, everyone knows that Clowney was seeking a multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $20MM when free agency opened, but he has had to modify his demands in a big way. The Browns are believed to have two offers on the table: a one-year pact worth $15MM, and a multi-year contract worth around $12MM/year. Cleveland does not seem to be high on Clowney’s list of preferred destinations, but the club does have the makings of a postseason contender. It will be interesting to see if another team tries to top the Browns’ proposals to land a potentially game-changing talent.
  2. Everson Griffen: Back in May, Griffen was rated as our No. 3 best available free agent, and he would be the No. 2 talent on that list today now that Cam Newton has signed with the Patriots. Shortly after the list was published, we heard that the Cardinals may be interested, but nothing has transpired on the Griffen front in the last six weeks. The 32-year-old showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019, and the fact that he is still unsigned may indicate that his contract demands are too high right now.
  3. Ezekiel Ansah: The Seahawks paired Clowney with Ansah in 2019 with the hopes of creating a true two-headed pass-rushing monster. That did not exactly work out as planned, as Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted 2.5 while playing in 11 games. Ansah just couldn’t regain the form that he displayed during his best years with the Lions, and it certainly seems as if he does not have another double-digit sack campaign in him. Still, he is another year removed from the shoulder injury that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, so he will surely get a chance to be a part of someone’s pass rush rotation in 2020.
  4. Michael Bennett: Bennett wants to play in 2020, but thus far, it doesn’t sound as if there has been much interest in his services. The three-time Pro Bowler enjoyed a nine-sack effort with the Eagles in 2018, but he was traded to the Patriots in March 2019 and clashed with New England brass. In October, the Pats shipped him to the Cowboys, for whom he posted four sacks in nine games. In total, he collected 6.5 sacks last year while playing fewer snaps than he is accustomed to. He may very well start to attract more interest once camp gets underway.
  5. Markus Golden: No one other than the incumbent Giants has expressed interest in Golden since free agency began, and it seems like the 29-year-old will be back with Big Blue in 2020. The Giants put the rarely-used UFA tender on him, which means that he will only be eligible to play for New York if he does not sign another offer prior to the start of training camp (presently scheduled for July 28). Though Golden posted 10 sacks in 2019, he did so off of just 26 pressures, which teams likely see as an unsustainable conversion rate. The UFA tender would pay Golden $4.125MM this season.
  6. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, and the 8.5 sacks he totaled in his rookie season in 2011 remain a career high. But he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year career, and he still looks the part of a starting DE. Fresh off a reasonably productive three-year stint with the Colts, Sheard has not yet been connected to any club this offseason.
  7. Clay Matthews: Matthews opened the 2019 campaign with his hair on fire, posting six sacks in the first five games of the season. It appeared that the two-year, $16.75MM contract the Rams gave to the longtime Packer in March 2019 was going to pay off in a big way, but Matthews suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. He picked up two more sacks the rest of the way, and LA cut ties with him earlier this year. There have been no public reports of interest in the 34-year-old, but he could be a valuable veteran presence if deployed in the right way.
  8. Vinny Curry: Curry has always been a situational pass rusher. Even when he started all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2017, he played in just over half of the club’s defensive snaps. His one year in Tampa Bay in 2018 was not a smashing success, but he returned to Philadelphia in 2019 to reprise his role as a player who can come in on passing downs and who represents a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. The Jets were said to be interested in him in March, and Gang Green could still use pass rushing help, but the two sides have not yet come together on an agreement.
  9. Terrell Suggs: Suggs’ career accomplishments stand head and shoulders above those of most everyone else on this list. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and seven-time Pro Bowler has 139 career sacks to his credit, but he finally started to slow down in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and he looked the part of an aging defender during his 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2019. Arizona cut him late last season and he was scooped up by the Chiefs, which allowed him to collect his second Super Bowl ring. It’s unclear if T-Sizzle has any interest in continuing his playing career, but he has nothing left to prove.
  10. Cameron Wake: Another player that would be higher on this list if not for his age, Wake was released by the Titans in March. The 38-year-old has said he wants to keep playing, but after a terrific run with the Dolphins from 2009-18, Wake’s one year with Tennessee did not go according to plan. He registered just two sacks in nine games and missed the final stretch of the season with a back injury. He might well be healthy now, but we are unaware of any teams with interest at this point.

Michael Bennett Wants To Play In 2020

Michael Bennett‘s 2019 season didn’t necessarily go as planned, but the veteran isn’t planning on hanging up his cleats. Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reports (via Twitter) that Bennett “wants to play in 2020.”

Following a one-season, nine-sack stint with the Eagles, Bennett was traded to the Patriots last offseason. He saw a reduced role during his time in New England, collecting five tackles and 2.5 sacks in six games (one start). The veteran wasn’t particularly happy with his new role, and that culminated in him earning a one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

The defensive end was shipped to the Cowboys shortly after his reinstatement, and he proceeded to appear in nine games for Dallas. In total, Bennett finished the season with 32 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 15 games (one starts).

Earlier this month, the 34-year-old suggested that he’d welcome a reunion with the Seahawks. Bennett earned three Pro Bowl nods and a Super Bowl ring during his five-year stint with Seattle (the Texas A&M product had a previous stint with the organization to start his career)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bennett, NFLPA, Cap, Kirksey

Although Michael Bennett went through a nomadic late-2010s stretch after the Seahawks traded him in 2018, he remained productive. The veteran defensive lineman has registered 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is a free agent for the first time since 2013. Bennett, who signed with the Seahawks in 2013, would like to return to the team to which he’s most linked. Asked if he would want to play for the Seahawks again, the 34-year-old defender said “hard yes.” Bennett, though, has not yet committed to playing a 12th NFL season.

I would love to end my career in Seattle,” Bennett said, via Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest. “It’s not up to you, though. It’s up to the team.”

The Seahawks gave Bennett two contracts, including a three-year, $31.5MM extension in 2016. That contract was set to run through 2020, but after the Eagles and Patriots traded him, Bennett and the Cowboys restructured the deal to direct him toward free agency this year. Seattle has most of its pass rushers — including Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed — as impending free agents, so the franchise will have critical decisions to make in the next week and change.

Here is the latest from around the league, moving first to the reconfigured NFLPA:

  • Russell Okung has enjoyed an eventful March, being traded from the Chargers to the Panthers and filing an unfair labor practice charge at the NFLPA staff. As for Okung’s status with the union, he will no longer be part of the NFLPA’s executive committee, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Okung dropped his bid for NFLPA president, throwing support behind Michael Thomas in a race that went to Browns center J.C. Tretter. Both of the players Tretter beat out for the job — Thomas and linebacker Sam Acho — will stay on as executive committee members.
  • Calais Campbell, Malcolm Jenkins and Wesley Woodyard will replace Mark Herzlich, Zak DeOssie and Adam Vinatieri on the executive committee. They will join Tretter, Acho, Thomas, Richard Sherman, Ben Watson, Alex Mack, Lorenzo Alexander and Thomas Morstead on the 11-man committee, the union announced.
  • Rumblings about the salary cap rising to around $230MM by 2021 have surfaced, but the 2020 cap will not move too far from the previously estimated $200MM amount. If the players approve the CBA proposal, the highest the cap would surge to in 2020 would be $206MM, per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). While the salary ceiling could climb significantly by 2023, if the league’s TV negotiations go well, those spikes will not come until at least 2021.
  • Christian Kirksey may have a chance to land on his feet before free agency. Recently released by the Browns, the veteran linebacker has three visits scheduled, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Kirksey’s travel itinerary is not yet known, but the 27-year-old defender’s first visit is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
  • The Texans will take a look at a notable wide receiver soon. They will work out former Broncos rotational cog Jordan Taylor, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Taylor has not played since the 2017 season. He spent 2018 on the Broncos’ PUP list, and though he caught on with the Vikings last year, the 28-year-old target did not see game action.

Cowboys Notes: Jerry, Dez, Witten

This is not exactly surprising given that he’ll turn 78 in October, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not planning to remain at the helm beyond the expiration of the next CBA, as Jon Machota of The Athletic tweets. Of course, the proposed CBA that will soon be voted on by the league’s workforce is another 10-year agreement, so it makes sense that Jones, who has owned the club since 1989, would be prepared to step down around the time the players and owners sit down again in another decade or so.

However, he is adamant that the proposed CBA is the right move for the league and should be ratified by the players.

Now for more from Dallas:

  • Former star wideout Dez Bryant hasn’t played since 2017, but he wants to continue his NFL career and recently expressed his desire to rejoin the Cowboys. For what it’s worth, Jones said he hasn’t ruled it out, as Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Jones even revealed a little more than we may have liked, saying he has considered the matter while in the shower.
  • Jones would also like tight end Jason Witten to return to the team, as Hill notes (Twitter link). However, it sounds like Jones has a reduced role in mind for Witten, and it remains to be seen whether Witten — who is open to signing elsewhere — will be receptive to that.
  • Likewise, Jones wants to retain pass-rusher Robert Quinn (Twitter link via Hill). The last we heard, the Cowboys had not discussed a new contract with Quinn — understandable, as the club has bigger fish to fry at the moment — but Quinn posted 11.5 sacks in a resurgent 2019 campaign, and Jones hopes there is a way he can keep him in Dallas.
  • Another member of the Cowboys’ front seven, Tyrone Crawford, is under contract through 2020, but the Cowboys could save $6.9MM by cutting him. That could be tempting, given that Crawford played in just four games in 2019 and had surgery on both of his hips. However, the 30-year-old said he could return to the field this spring, and Jones expects him to be on the roster, though he is definitely a restructure candidate (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News).
  • Cowboys DE Michael Bennett signed a new contract with the Cowboys after Dallas acquired him from the Patriots in October that allows him to hit free agency this year. As such, his comments to ESPN’s Josina Anderson indicating that he wants to play in 2020 are not surprising (Twitter link). It sounds as though Bennett, 34, wants to hook on with a contender, and there should be a market for his services.

Michael Bennett Will Be A 2020 Free Agent

Defensive end Michael Bennett signed a new contract after being acquired by the Cowboys that will allow him to reach free agency at the conclusion of the 2019 season, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Under his previous contact, Bennett was due roughly $2.25MM in salary and roster bonuses for the rest of the season. Now, he’ll collect “close” to $2MM in base salary and bonuses but can also bring in another $750K via incentives. And instead of waiting until the 2021 offseason to hit the open market, Bennett can now sign with a new team this coming spring.

As Pelissero notes, Bennett has already been paid $5.6MM by the Patriots, who acquired him from the Eagles earlier this year. New England gave Bennett a new two-year deal after trading for him which included a $4MM signing bonus. That bonus money will stay on the Patriots’ books following Bennett’s trade to Dallas.

While he’s still a talented player, the now-32-year-old Bennett had his role reduced in New England and also had issues with his defensive line coach Bret Bielema. The Patriots weren’t able to get much in return for the veteran pass-rusher, acquiring only a conditional 2021 seventh-rounder in exchange for Bennett.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Trade Michael Bennett To Cowboys

Michael Bennett got his wish. On Thursday, the Patriots agreed to trade the defensive end to the Cowboys for a seventh-round pick that can turn into a sixth-round choice in 2021, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

Bennett clashed with Pats brass earlier this month and led to an argument between him and defensive line coach Bret Bielema. Soon after, the veteran received a one-game suspension for airing his frustrations, which stemmed from a perceived lack of playing time.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has never been one to tolerate shenanigans and isn’t big into sentimentality. The team was high on Bennett after acquiring him from the Eagles in March – and even gave him a pay bump – but they haven’t had much use for him this year. The defensive end appeared in six games, but started just once. In three of those games, he saw less than 20 defensive snaps. In his last time out, against the Giants, he didn’t see the field until the second quarter.

On Friday, I had a philosophical disagreement with my position coach that has led to my suspension,” Bennett said in a statement. “I apologize to my teammates for any distraction this may have caused.”

Apparently, the distraction was enough to earn him a one-way ticket out of Foxboro. Meanwhile, the Cowboys now have a stronger DE rotation that features Bennett, Demarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, Kerry Hyder, and Dorance Armstrong. Losing Tyrone Crawford for the year wasn’t ideal, but the Cowboys have gained back a lot of ground by adding Bennett to the mix.

In 2018, Bennett tallied nine sacks for Philly, marking his highest total since 2015. So far this year, the three-time Pro Bowler has 2.5 sacks on the stat sheet, giving him 65.5 in total across ~9.5 seasons.

The Cowboys are on their bye this week, so Bennett will have plenty of time to get acclimated and learn the new playbook. Then, on Monday Nov. 4, he’ll get to don his new threads for the first time when the Cowboys face the Giants. Fun fact: He faced the Giants twice last year and notched a sack in each game.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Suspend DE Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett has not seen the kind of role most expected when the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles, and he will miss the next Patriots game because of a suspension.

The Patriots gave Bennett a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss. The veteran defensive end played just 11 of the Pats’ 50 defensive snaps in their Week 6 win over the Giants.

On Friday, I had a philosophical disagreement with my position coach that has led to my suspension,” Bennett said, via ESPN.com’s Jordan Schultz (on Twitter). “I apologize to my teammates for any distraction this may have caused.”

Bennett and Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema‘s argument came in front of other players, per Reiss. The team watched film with coaches Friday before receiving the weekend off, but Bennett was not at Patriots practice Tuesday.

A longtime starter who played key roles with the Seahawks and Eagles, Bennett has seen fewer than 20 defensive snaps three times this season. He did not see time until the second quarter against the Giants last week. The Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to the Eagles to acquire him this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Pats, Redskins, Giants, Eagles

A third degree felony assault charge against Patriots defensive lineman Michael Bennett has been dismissed, reports David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. “After looking at all the evidence and applying the law, a crime could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” district attorney chief of staff Vivian King said in a statement. “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.” Bennett was accused of injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic while attempting to gain field access during Super Bowl LI, but he wasn’t arrested at the scene and no video exists of the incident. A member of the Seahawks when the episode occurred, Bennett has since been traded twice, first to Philadelphia and then to New England.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • The Redskins plan to host Duke quarterback Daniel Jones for a pre-draft visit next week, according to JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. Once viewed as more of a Day 2 selection, Jones could be pushed into Round 1, and the division-rival Giants are reportedly interested in taking Jones with the 17th overall pick. A three-year starter, Jones completed 60.5% of his passes for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 2018. Washington acquired Case Keenum earlier this year and still has Alex Smith on the books, but is in need of a long-term signal-caller given Smith’s health question marks.
  • Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown met with the Giants today and will visit the Redskins on Thursday, tweets Rapoport. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah pegs Brown as a fringe first-rounder, ranking him 36th on his most recent list of 2019’s top-50 prospects. Brown, who stands 6’1″, 225 pounds, managed at least 75 catches and 1,250 yards in each of the past two seasons. NFL clubs are reportedly pleased with Brown’s versatility, and many teams believe he can play both outside and in the slot, per James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The Eagles will host Alabama running back Josh Jacobs next week, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Viewed as the top running back on the board, Jacobs could be selected in the first round, but the low value placed on backs could force him into Day 2. Philadelphia recently acquired Jordan Howard from the Bears, and he figures to handle the majority of early down work in 2019. Jacobs, though, could add another dimension to a backfield that also includes Corey Clement, Josh Adams, and Wendell Smallwood.