Michael Bennett could very well be the first shoe to drop in what promises to be an eventful offseason for the Seattle Seahawks. According to this one report, the Seahawks are now discussing trade possibilities surrounding Bennett with other teams (more on that here).
Still a productive player at the somewhat advanced age of 32, Bennett is coming off a 2017 campaign that saw him rack up 8.5 sacks en route to a third consecutive Pro Bowl nod. His cap hit for the 2018 season is just north of $8 million, which makes the defensive end a valuable commodity on the trade market.
Here’s five teams that make the most sense when it comes to landing Bennett in a trade.
San Francisco 49ers
Let’s get this out of the way relatively quickly. Seattle and San Francisco working out a trade together is about as likely as President Trump owning the Carolina Panthers. Even then, there’s every reason to believe the 49ers and GM John Lynch will put in a call to Seattle about Bennett.
First off, San Francisco runs a similar defense to that of the Seahawks with coordinator Robert Saleh having coached in Seattle from 2011-13. Bennett actually played under him for one season in the Pacific Northwest. Secondly, the 49ers have a definite pass-rush need with Elvis Dumervil’s 6.5 sacks leading the squad last season. Lastly, San Francisco still has ample cap room, even after signing Jimmy Garoppolo to the richest contract in NFL history. That all leads us to believe San Francisco is a legitimate possible destination for Bennett.
New England Patriots
Since the two-time defending AFC champs traded Chandler Jones to Arizona prior to the 2016 season, the team has lacked that consistent pass-rush threat off the edge. Trey Flowers led the team in sacks with 6.5 last season. It’s one of the primary reasons the Patriots’ defense yielded the third-most passing yards in the NFL. With Malcolm Butler set to leave in free agency, Bill Belichick and Co. could very well decide that adding a pass rusher could be the way to go. Bennett is a logical fit.
It also helps matters that New England acquired an additional second-round pick from San Francisco in the Garoppolo trade. This makes it easier for the team to pony up what would likely need to be a mid-round pick to acquire Bennett. In reality, the Patriots seem to be the most logical fit here.
Whether Marshawn Lynch returns to Oakland for a second season is still up in the air. If he does, there’s very little reason to believe the running back wouldn’t push the Raiders to sign his former teammate with the Seahawks. Lynch and Bennett are considered to be buds. Equally as important for something of this ilk, Bennett’s outspoken political views wouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent in the more liberal Northern California region.
On the field, it’s rather clear that Oakland needs a running partner for former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. Former Bennett teammate, Bruce Irvin, has provided that to an extent with 15 sacks over the past two seasons. Adding someone of Bennett’s capability to this unit would go a long way in helping the Raiders’ under-performing defense improve. It would also make the need to bring in a high-end corner in free agency a bit less important.
New Orleans Saints
All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan has been the standalone pass-rush threat for an improved Saints defense over the past several seasons. Last year alone, Jordan recorded a team-high 13 sacks. Defensive back Vonn Bell tied for second on the squad with 4.5 sacks. That’s less-than-ideal. Adding someone like Bennett to line up opposite Jordan would be the opposite of less-than-ideal. In fact, it would form one of the better pass rushing tandems in the entire NFC.
New Orleans currently finds itself north of $33 million under the cap. That’s a number we’ll soon see decrease once Drew Brees signs his new contract. So it might be difficult for the team to add a high-end defender in free agency. That’s where Bennett comes into play. New Orleans could surely afford the $8.4 million Bennett is set to count against the cap in 2018.
Detroit just recently placed the franchise tag on defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, guaranteeing him north of $17 million for the 2018 season. That’s a whole lot of cash for a player that’s been inconsistent. Ansah recorded 14.5 sacks for Detroit in 2015 and 12 sacks last season. In between, he put up a paltry two sacks in 2016. At the very least, this has to be concerning for the brass in Detroit. In Bennett, the Lions would be adding a more consistent pass-rush threat on the cheap. Here’s a guy that has recorded five-plus sacks in each of the past six seasons, putting up a minimum of seven five times during that span.
The idea here would be pull a 180 and let Ansah test free agency while showing him that the Lions have another option to replace him on the roster. Should Ansah decide to re-sign with Detroit, it would form an elite pass-rush tandem. If not, Bennett would do just fine at the team’s top option at about half of what Ansah is slated to make under the tag.