The New England Patriots have made their first major move of the 2019 season.
The team is finalizing a trade for Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, according to several reports.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported the story.
The Pats will send a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Eagles for Bennett and a 2020 seventh-round selection, per reports.
The trade cannot be officially executed until the new league year begins on March 13.
In the event that the Patriots lose Trey Flowers in free agency, it’s necessary for the team to add a known commodity on the defensive line. Bennett is a versatile player who, like Flowers, can play multiple spots along the front. At age 33, Bennett is still playing at a high level, as evidenced by his 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bennett ranked fifth in the NFL in total pressures this past season, trailing only Dee Ford, J.J. Watt, Jerry Hughes, and Brandon Graham.
Bennett is due $15.2 million over the next two seasons. His base salaries for 2019 and 2020 are not guaranteed.
Bennett is the older brother of former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, who played a pivotal role in the team’s Super Bowl LI run. According to ESPN, Martellus has expressed interest in re-joining the Patriots this season. A strong, physical tight end, Martellus excelled for the Pats during the 2016 season and resurfaced in 2017 after being cut by the Packers. He was placed on injured reserve with shoulder and hamstring injuries following two games with the Patriots. He announced his retirement from the NFL a year ago.
Michael Bennett was traded from the Seahawks to the Eagles last offseason. His breakout season came in 2012 when he played for Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. Schiano, of course, will serve as the top defensive coach in New England this year.
Bennett’s best years came in Seattle, where he helped anchor one of the league’s most ferocious defenses.
This morning, Bennett appeared on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” to discuss the upcoming season. His name had been floated in trade rumors earlier in the week.
“I still know that I’m one of the best players in the NFL,” Bennett said. “You look at statistically last year, quarterback hits, TFLs, and with how I approach the game I love football and whatever team I’m on, I’m going to take that same attitude and go out there and be a nasty player and try to dominate on the defensive line and be the best teammate and the best player that I can possibly be.”
Bennett will bring experience to a relatively unproven group of defensive ends that includes Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Ufomba Kamalu, and Keionta Davis. Veteran Adrian Clayborn is the only other defensive end under contract with significant NFL experience.
New England’s best defensive lineman, Flowers, becomes a free agent next week.
Many of the other top defensive ends across the league were handed the franchise tag, which should only inflate Flowers’ market. He’s considered one of the top overall players available in free agency.
The possibility exists that the Patriots will not be able to re-sign Flowers, who emerged as a star over the past two seasons.