And the Eagles' blockbuster reported Wednesday by ESPN and can become official at the start of free agency on March 14, isn't notable just because of its obvious name recognition. It's notable because it gives Philadelphia, the reigning world champion, the best defensive line in the NFL., which was
That's a line, of course, that now figures to be without former starting end Vinny Curry, whose $11-million salary-cap hit in 2018 is already the subject of speculated trade talks. Handed a big-money extension in 2016, the former second-round draft pick was once a heralded rotational pass rusher in Philadelphia and upped his game as a run stopper during the team's Super Bowl run, but the emergence of 2017 first-rounder Derek Barnett limited his impact on the stat sheet.
And yet, even with Curry a virtual lock to head elsewhere, especially considering the Eagles entered the offseason under the salary cap and are now preparing to take on Bennett's deal, there's little doubt that Philly has set the bar high -- if not unreachable -- with its front four for 2018.
How can anyone say otherwise?
The Eagles are literally fresh off a Super Bowl win with their crop of defensive linemen, and that crew, which helped seal a Lombardi Trophy win thanks to a late strip-sack of the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, already boasts Pro Bowl-caliber rushers in Brandon Graham, whose 9.5 sacks in 2017 don't even do him justice, and Fletcher Cox, a perennial force up the middle whose efforts at times single-handedly powered coordinator Jim Schwartz's unit to victory in the playoffs. Throw in Barnett, who racked up five sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries as a rookie, veteran Chris Long, whose four forced fumbles led the team, and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who had 1.5 sacks in his first three games as an Eagle, and it's easy to see why Bennett only makes Schwartz's line scarier.
Bennett will be 33 in November, so he's no spring chicken, but his move out of Seattle seems more about the Seahawks' long-anticipated contract purge than it does an indictment of his play. A three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, the outspoken lineman hasn't had fewer than five sacks in a season since 2011, and he's logged at least seven in five of his last six years. His 24 quarterback hits in 2017, per The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia, even topped the best mark of any Eagles linemen, so he figures to add yet another brute force to a Philadelphia group already chock-full of them.
Here’s the Eagles’ new third-down pass rush: Michael Bennett and Fletcher Cox on the inside, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham on the outside.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 7, 2018
Things can change, and other roster dominoes can fall, but as it stands, if this doesn't confirm the Eagles' defensive line as the single biggest terror in the NFL entering 2018, then what will?