Jerry Jones clearly expressed to Michael Bennett that the recently-acquired defensive end is to stand before, and hit the ground during, Dallas Cowboys games.
The Cowboys’ owner/general manager isn’t paying Bennett to continue his efforts toward fighting social injustice, nor did Jones surrender a draft pick for the former Eagle and Patriot to rot on the bench.
“We expect him to come in and play at the level he did last year. … We think he’s got a lot of gas left in his tank,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan last week, per The Athletic. “We expect him to come in and, frankly, contribute immediately.”
Bennett, 33, appeared in six games for the Patriots this season, registering five tackles and 2.5 sacks. In 2018, he started 10 games for Philadelphia, collecting 34 tackles and nine sacks. For his career, Bennett — a Super Bowl champion with the Seahawks — has 332 combined tackles, 65.5 quarterback takedowns, 10 forced fumbles and five pass deflections.
To say Jerry is pumped about his arrival is a massive understatement. Following a questionable statement in which he claimed there’s “nothing negative” surrounding Bennett, who famously derided Jones (and the city of Dallas) in years past, Jones fired a shot at New England, ribbing the Evil Empire for Bennett’s usage — or lack thereof.
“The scheme that they had him working in up in New England had a lot to do with us being able to trade for him,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Probably didn’t utilize what he can bring as much as we will be able to utilize it. Secondly, he likes to play. He wants on that field. And you say, ‘Well, duh. Doesn’t everybody?’ When he’s not on the field, he’s not as happy as when he can get out there and try to make plays.”
Bennett won’t replace starting DEs DeMarcus Lawrence or Robert Quinn, the Cowboys’ current sack leader, but he’s a monster pass-rushing upgrade on DE Tyrone Crawford, who was lost for the season due to a hip injury.
As the depth chart is concerned, he’s expected to slide in as the primary backup to Lawrence and Quinn while occasionally kicking inside, spelling DTs Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods.
Familiar with defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard from their stints in Seattle, Bennett will make his Dallas debut on Monday as the team returns from its bye to battle the New York Giants at East Rutherford.
“He’s a champion,” Richard said last week, per Pro Football Talk. “His history, his playoff experience. What is it, 65 sacks now in however many years that he’s been in? Wherever he’s been, he’s had success.”
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Cowboys Explicity Warn Bennett Regarding Anthem Protest
What flew in Seattle and Philadelphia for Bennett is expressly prohibited in Dallas. He has long been a proponent of social and racial justice, joining former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick (and several others) in protesting the national anthem.
Rather than kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner, as Kaepernick did, Bennett has opted in recent years to stay in the locker room until kickoff. It’s a demonstration that earned him a one-week conduct detrimental suspension — and his eventual departure — from the New England Patriots, who shipped him off for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick.
Such acts weren’t permitted in Bill Belichick’s world. And they surely aren’t allowed in Jerry’s universe, where players are instructed to stand for the anthem.
“I’m satisfied that, in Michael, we’ve got a player who knows how we do it here with the Cowboys,” Jones said last month on 105.3 The Fan, via the Dallas Morning News.
“We don’t anticipate that being an issue. We’re excited to have him here. … We anticipate him doing what all of our players do,” head coach Jason Garrett said, per the DMN.
Dallas Nearly Traded for Pro Bowler Before Bennett Deal
The Cowboys made waves by striking a trade for Bennett, but they had an even bigger splash planned with another tried-and-true defensive lineman. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last Sunday that Dallas was among several teams who expressed an interest in acquiring New York Jets DL Leonard Williams.
Schefter didn’t specify the level of the Cowboys’ diligence, saying only they eventually turned their attention to Bennett, “taking them out of the mix for Williams,” who was eventually sent to the crosstown New York Giants prior to last week’s NFL trade deadline.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL