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Kickstarter: The Cowboys’ trade for Michael Bennett about more than talent

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It is very unlike the Amari Cooper trade, but here’s how it has something important in common.

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys have jumped into the trade market as the NFL deadline neared and come away with a name talent. However, in most respects, this year’s trade for Michael Bennett and the season-saving move in 2018 to acquire Amari Cooper have very little else in common. Here are just some obvious contrasts:

  • They play on different sides of the ball.
  • Cooper was a former first-round selection while Bennett entered the draft as a UDFA.
  • Cooper famously cost a first-round pick, Bennett will at most cost a 2021 sixth-rounder.
  • Dallas was desperate for wide receiver talent in 2018 with the failed “by committee” approach, where they have some very good defensive line talent already in DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and Maliek Collins. Bennett is a real upgrade in depth, but was hardly the absolute necessity Cooper was.
  • The Cowboys were in much worse shape in 2018 when they pulled the trigger, with many already writing their playoff chances off. Currently, they are leading the NFC East, although the Philadelphia Eagles are nipping at their heels (thanks for nothing, Buffalo Bills).
  • Cooper is only 25, and is expected to be a part of the Cowboys for years to come. Bennett is 33, would be at most a two-year rental, and the team can walk away from him in 2020 with no dead cap.

So they are nothing alike. Other than one thing.

Both are clear signals that this team is still very much in a win-now mode. While so many of us (I share in this guilt) thought that they had no chance of making it back to the playoffs exactly one year ago even after the Cooper deal materialized, the team proved us wrong, not only clawing their way to the division crown but notching a win in the wild card round.

Obviously the talent that Cooper brought to the field (and which was oddly buried in his last season or so with the Oakland Raiders) played a huge role. But there was something else involved. Bringing him in provided a lift to the entire team, not just the passing game. The commitment of the staff to find answers showed that they believed that the roster they had could get it done with one key addition.

Bennett is not as clearly that one missing piece, but this is not a team that needs one of those. What it needs is a bit of a boost for a defensive line that has not been as productive as it should be. That was not the only way that the roster could have been upgraded, but it was perhaps the most effective. Highly versatile lineman Tyrone Crawford just went on IR, and there was a hole that needed to be filled. The team could have gone the conservative, build from within route by promoting Daniel Wise off the practice squad. Or they could have gone with a bargain-basement signing like they briefly did with Justin Hamilton. Some have characterized Bennett as one of those low cost acquisitions, but given his pedigree, he is more just a real value for the cost involved, and an impressive bit of working the phones to find a player who brings some real talent to the table - talent that, according to even the limited tape from his time this season with the New England Patriots, is still very much apparent, as John Owning of DMN told us.

Now factor in the old principle that you can never have too many pass rushers, and Bennett has a real potential to help spark the defense both by his own ability to get to the quarterback and the ball carrier, as well as helping draw attention that can free up others to make plays.

It not only should have tangible effects on the field. Getting Bennett should raise the confidence of the entire team. It is just more evidence for them that their coaches and upper management still have a lot of faith in what they can do right now. He represents one more tool to use without in any way undermining the players they already have.

Intangibles are by definition impossible to measure. They are also unquestionably very important. Bennett helps there as well as putting some extra oomph in the defensive line. Cooper did much the same a year ago. It is likely that Bennett’s impact won’t be as great. But it will be real, and may be just what the team needs coming out of the bye with a real fight on their hands to get back to the postseason.