One year after getting traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Philadelphia Eagles, veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett may find himself on another team for the 2019 season.
The 33-year-old is reportedly on the trading block, with the possibility that the Eagles may just release him outright. Philadelphia just re-signed Brandon Graham to a three-year, $40 million contract, while Derek Barnett is set to return from injured reserve and resume his starting role next season. That leaves Bennett as the odd man out.
The Eagles have discussed the possibility of trading Bennett with other teams, according to multiple NFL sources. The team’s leverage in negotiations is that it could bring him back for 2019, but two sources close to the situation said Bennett will eventually be released, barring something unforeseen, in lieu of a deal.
Why would the Eagles part with their most productive defensive end from last season, especially when he carries a seemingly reasonable $7.2 million cap number for 2019? No. 1, they’ll be returning both starters and Bennett has made it clear that he prefers not to come off the bench. No. 2, the outspoken 33-year-old would likely make his feelings known again, privately or publicly.
Despite playing 200+ fewer snaps in 2018 than in his last year with the Seahawks, Bennett still had nine sacks in ten starts, as he went from rotational pass-rusher to starter following Barnett’s injury. Bennett was just 1.5 sacks behind Fletcher Cox for the team-lead, and ranked 4th in QB hits.
Not only is it known at this point that Bennett doesn’t want to be used as a bench player, he also wants a pay bump from his scheduled $6.2 million base salary, as he told Good Morning Football on Friday.
“You’re always caught off guard whenever your name is brought up in the trade blocks, or being traded, but you understand that people want to acquire your services and we’re in a tough situation as far as the salary cap,” Bennett said when asked how the trade discussions affected him this offseason. “But I’m not willing to take a pay cut. I actually want a pay raise at this point, and so whatever happens just to know that whatever team I go to I want to get paid more than I get paid right now.”
If Philadelphia releases Bennett, they get all $7.2 million in cap space back, with no dead money whatsoever. There are no signs that Bennett is on the decline even at 34 years of age, and with a lot of top pass rushers off the market due to recent contract extensions or franchise tags, Bennett immediately becomes one of the best names out there for availability — whether via trade or as a free agent.
And no, considering both his want for a higher salary and given how his tenure with the Seahawks ended, there’s almost no way he’s reuniting with Seattle.