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What does DE Michael Bennett bring to the Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys made a move to solidify their edge rush by sending a late-round draft pick to the New England Patriots for veteran defensive end Michael Bennett
Credit: AP
New England Patriots defensive lineman Michael Bennett faces reporters following practice at NFL football training camp, Sunday, July 28, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Dallas Cowboys traded a conditional 2021 seventh-round pick to the New England Patriots for defensive end Michael Bennett. The pick could mature into a sixth-round pick from the same draft class. 

The Cowboys front office sat down with vice president of player personnel Will McClay during the bye week and determined that defensive end was an area where they could improve. It was all part of the organization's self evaluation that they undertake during the off week to make sure there aren't areas on the team that could use adjustments. 

Defensive line was certainly one of them. After all, defensive end Tyrone Crawford had gone to the injured reserve list with a hip injury that required surgery. Dallas was in need of someone who could replace Crawford as part of the rushmen's rotation but also as a presence in the locker room. 

Coach Jason Garrett on Thursday may or may not have known the club was going to add Bennett, but he knew they were working to improve the roster. 

"I think we’re always looking to improve our team," Garrett told reporters. "It’s really a 365-days-out-of-the-year proposition, so I know our personnel people are talking to people around the league. They’re always fielding phone calls. They’re always evaluating our team and players all over the league and if anything strikes our interest as we get closer, we certainly look at it." 

The Cowboys struck and brought Bennett, a former Texas A&M Aggie, to Texas for the first time as a pro.

The most obvious element Bennett is going to bring to the Cowboys is another veteran presence from the Kris Richard Legion of Boom era that can communicate and emulate what the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator is looking for. 

From Bennett's background with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-12) and Seattle Seahawks (2013-17), he has an intricate web of connections to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's style of defense that his acquisition is a natural plug-and-play. 

One of Bennett's best traits is his ability to play inside at defensive tackle, which the Cowboys got to see up close twice last season when he was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. 

When Bennett was producing Pro Bowls from 2015-17, he was the main pass rusher for the Seahawks until defensive end Frank Clark took over, now with the Kansas City Chiefs. In his final year with Seattle, coincidentally Richard's final year as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator, Bennett produced 8.5 sacks, a pass breakup, 14 tackles for loss, and 40 combined tackles. 

In Dallas, Bennett won't be asked to lead the defensive line; it has its war daddy in DeMarcus Lawrence and its Dutch uncle in Robert Quinn. Bennett will not be asked to be anymore than what Crawford was. 

However, whereas Crawford has always been a contributor and not a Pro Bowler or No. 1 edge defender since joining the Cowboys as a 2012 third-round pick from Boise State, Bennett has been that guy and knows how to perform in big games.

One element that every Cowboys Super Bowl team had was a veteran who had previously won championships and was present to show the new team how to play like champions. 

With the 1971 Cowboys, it was cornerback Herb Adderley, who was a member of the Green Bay Packers that won the first two Super Bowls. 

In 1977, take your pick of any veteran from that '71 team in Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, and Mel Renfro. 

In 1992, it was defensive end Charles Haley, coming over from the San Francisco 49ers dynasty, to help Dallas to three Super Bowl wins in four years. 

Bennett could be that missing element none of the other playoff-contending squads from 2006 onward have had: a significant, meritorious veteran who had won a championship with a previous team. 

Adding Bennett to the squad, regardless of what he accomplished in his past, speaks to the future of the Cowboys. The front office is not content to roll with the players they have, but make additions where needed, because they have more to achieve than simply winning the division. 

Do you think the addition of Bennett will be a positive impact on the defense? Share your thoughts on the state of the defensive line in Dallas with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane. 

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