Patriots strike again with shrewd acquisition of Michael Bennett

New England Patriots

Other teams should be hesitant to do business with the Patriots, but at least the Eagles got something for Michael Bennett.

On Friday morning,  Michael Bennett was on NFL Network and asked for a raise. Jeff McClane of the Philadelphia Inquirer then reported the cap-strapped Philadelphia Eagles would trade or release the veteran defensive end, and now the New England Patriots have acquired Bennett in a trade.

Bennett is aging (33, 34 in November), but still productive (nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss in 2018) and he presumably would like to win another Super Bowl. That’s the kind of player the Patriots target, someone who will embrace their way in the name of getting a ring. The player embodiment of that is quarterback Tom Brady, who buys in and is mostly absent of visible ego.

The Patriots seem sure to let Trey Flowers hit the open market, with little effort to keep him coming off performing well over the last few seasons. Now they have a replacement in Bennett, at a lower rate ($7.2 million cap hit this year) with no concrete commitment beyond 2019.

Bill Belichick has missed on evaluating veteran players, especially when it’s contract time, but it’s incredibly rare. Lawyer Milloy, Deion Branch, Randy Moss and Jamie Collins and some notable examples of players who dropped off after leaving the Patriots, with Nate Solder and Dion Lewis perhaps on track to join the list in due time.

Belichick has a uniquely cold ability to assess when a player has outlived his usefulness to him, and on the back end help evaluate those who can seamlessly replace that player at a lower cost. That’s the core principle of a dynasty that is now pushing toward a 20-year run, and if the Patriots call with a trade offer the other 31 teams should automatically be questioning their own evaluation of that player.

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The Patriots are giving up the coin flip proposition of 2020 fifth-round pick, to get an immediate contributor in Bennett along with a 2020 seventh-round pick. Philadelphia’s trade leverage evaporated as soon as Bennett declared on the league’s own network he wanted more money, and New England shrewdly jumped in to take advantage of increased urgency in the dwindling days before free agency launches.

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