By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
On Monday, it was reported that the Eagles were shopping defensive end Michael Bennett at the NFL Combine, but could the team actually trade him?
The short answer is yes.
The free agent market was set to be flush with top tier pass rushers this offseason, but that changed in a hurry. The Eagles made a couple decisions that lead to the extension of Brandon Graham and Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark and Dee Ford have all been franchise tagged. That leaves Trey Flowers as the blue chip free agent and Preston Smith as arguably the second-best option in the market.
For a team looking for an edge rusher, Bennett might be a more cost-effective impact option than the free agents available and, even if he is made available in a trade, would carry a lower cap hit than Dee Ford.
This draft is filled with defensive line talent. The potential for busts is always there, but the value the Eagles could extract in a trade would likely fall because of this.
Teams could also look to use Bennett’s looming legal issue to lower his value in a trade, but since his hear that was set for today was pushed back yet again and it has been nearly a year since the charges were filed, there is a growing sense that nothing may come of the case against Bennett.
A draft filled with defensive line talent would be difficult to pass up for the Eagles. They certainly need help on the inside of the defensive line to help Fletcher Cox, so a defensive tackle will almost certainly be picked with one of the Eagles three picks in the first two rounds, but a draft this deep means that the Eagles may look to select a defensive end with one of those picks, as well. The team already has Graham, Long, Barnett and Bennett on the outside as well as second-year man Josh Sweat.
Moving Bennett would allow a drafted player to see a meaningful amount of snaps in the rotation, but keeping him may limit the snaps that they all see unless Jim Schwartz decides to line up Bennett and Graham inside more.
Of course, the move would also be a money move as the Eagles could save over $7 million in cap space by trading Bennett. That is a lot of room to save, but it is also fairly inexpensive for the production Bennett brings. Should they choose to keep him, a deal would likely be easy to reach as Bennett has no guaranteed money left on his contract and offering him some in exchange for a lower cap hit gives both sides incentive.
The defensive line improved as Bennett was given more snaps in 2018. Bennett finished with the fourth most quarterback hits of any player in 2018 (30) and the tenth most pressures. He also registered nine sacks, 34 tackles and two forced fumbles. That’s a guy the Eagles want to keep (and who has previously said he wants to stay with the Eagles), but is certainly valuable to other teams in a trade.
In my opinion, there are only two ways Bennett gets dealt:
1. The Eagles do everything they can, but just cannot find a way to clear the cap space they need to sign their draft picks and Bennett becomes a cap casualty
2. A pass rusher needy team misses out on Trey Flowers and isn’t confident in their draft chances and offers a package of great value to the Eagles for him
The Giants got a third-round pick for Jason Pierre-Paul last offseason and he took up nearly double the cap space Bennett would for pretty similar production (taking snaps played into account). The Chiefs are shopping Justin Houston and Dee Ford in trades, so a trade of either of those players could set the market this offseason.
If the Eagles are able to solve the cap situation, it’d be hard to imagine them getting anything less than a third-round pick should they decide to deal the veteran, and I’d think a deal built around a third-round pick would require a few lower picks, too.
I’d imagine if the team was offered a first or second-round pick as the centerpiece of a trade, they’d pull the trigger. Why not save the $7 million in cap space and select a defensive end to replace Bennett for the next four years with that pick?
The Eagles shopping Bennett is just a smart move. It lets teams know that he could be had, but, at the same time, they know that the Eagles are not necessarily in a position where they are being forced to deal him in a market where the premium pass rushers are drying up. It is the opposite of what would have happened with the Eagles trying to trade Foles to a team that knows the Eagles can’t keep him in a market that is saturated with quarterbacks.
Nothing may come of the Eagles discussing possible trades, but rest assured it is another masterful move by Howie Roseman that could get the franchise more value in the ling run.