Entering free agency with very little money, the New England Patriots were going to be limited in terms of what they were going to do this off-season. However, like they do every season, the Patriots found players that could contribute at a much lower cost. While they haven’t made any big moves just yet, the team pulled off another important trade for Michael Bennett to solidify their defensive line. Despite their other small moves this off-season, the acquisition for Bennett was arguably their best move in 2019.
Before free-agency began, the Patriots agreed in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles that would send a fifth round pick for Bennett and a seventh round pick, giving the team insurance for the potential departure of Trey Flowers. Unsurprisingly, Flowers earned a hefty contract from the Detroit Lions for 5 years, $90 million to reunite with former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia.
By acquiring Bennett, the Patriots helped cover an immediate need at defensive end which will certainly help them come draft time. The team still has to make some other moves to add depth to the defensive line after releasing Adrian Clayborn, freeing around $4 million in cap space.
Bennett as a player has been disruptive on the defensive line despite his age (33). Last season with the Eagles, he finished with nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and 30 quarterback hits, showing he still can be productive at his age. He won’t have the same versatility as Flowers, but Bennett is a big pickup for a team in desperate need of pass rushing. His arrival will come with a cost as the Patriots will be forced to pay him $7.2 million this season, but it is still a big discount from paying Flowers over $18 million a year. Bennet has also been durable during his career, as he’s played all 16 games over the past two seasons. He’s not the same force as a pass-rusher he once was earlier in his career, but Bennett still has enough left in the tank to be a productive player for the Patriots’ defense with both his veteran leadership and experience in big games.
While the Patriots could have addressed other positions by trade like wide receiver, their decision to trade for Bennett was a great move in terms of both depth and production. It remains to be seen how effective he becomes in the Patriots’ system but for what they had to give up for him, it was well worth the late round pick. With the draft upcoming, they’ll likely sure up the defensive line a little better and fill some of their big needs, but trading for Bennett was definitely their best move this off-season. For the lack of freedom they had with cap room, acquiring a notable pass rusher like Bennett will only help their defense.