Defensive lineman Michael Bennett came to Seattle before the 2013 season on a one-year deal after proving that he could provide pressure from the end and tackle positions in Tampa Bay. He did so estimably for the Seahawks last season, becoming a key cog in the NFL's best defense and a major player down the stretch as the franchise grabbed its first Lombardi Trophy with a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII.
Coming into the 2014 offseason, Bennett was a major priority for the Seahawks. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had already released veterans Sidney Rice and Red Bryant to free up salary cap space for a deal that would keep Bennett in the Emerald City for three to four seasons. And on Monday afternoon, Bennett did indeed agree to terms on a new four-year deal, worth approximately $28.5 million total, with $16 million in guarantees. ESPN's Adam Schefter was among the first to report the deal.
"Michael has been a great influence for us," Carroll said Monday on SIRIUS NFL Radio. "When John Schneider hooked up with Mike last year, we had hopes that he would be a real contributor, and he exceeded our expectations. He's got great energy, a terrific motor, and he's a very versatile football player. We really need to play him more. We didn't play him a lot in the first half of the season, but as the year went on, he got better and he helped us. We're excited about it."
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“At the end of the day it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation," Bennett said during the press conference announcing his new deal. "Sometimes going to a whole other organization doesn’t work out. The way it worked out for me coming here and being with these guys... I saw people take a lot of money and they go to other places and that place isn’t what you thought it would be. I know what this place is and I’m familiar with the staff and the players and it makes it a big deal to be here.”
At least one other team (the Chicago Bears to be sure) offered Bennett more money, but he chose to stay put.
“Yeah, there was more, but I wanted to be here . There are a lot of young guys here, and there are a lot of winning ways and I just love the organization and the things that they are about. I love the staff, from the equipment staff to the medical staff; it just goes on and on. Everybody here are just good people and I really enjoy that.”
Schefter and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network had reported that Carroll and Schneider were putting on a heavy 11th-hour push before the start of free agency tomorrow.
It seems like a lot of love for a guy who put up 8.5 sacks in 2013, but when you look beyond the simple stats, it's clear that Bennett has been one of the NFL's more valuable defensive linemen over the last two seasons. He amassed 71 total quarterback pressures in 2012 for the Buccaneers, ranking sixth in the league among 4-3 defensive ends. And he put up 65 total pressures for the Seahawks in 2013, despite seeing his pass rush snaps go from 485 to 257, per Pro Football Focus. In addition, the fact that he can play so well inside -- over 36 percent of his 2013 snaps came from the tackle position -- makes him a rare dual-position value player.
Schneider said at the combine that there was little thought of putting the franchise tag on Bennett, but it's clear that the Seahawks wanted him back as a major anchor in their tremendous front seven.
The fact that the Seahawks were able to stay competitive with the Bears -- who may have offered slightly more for Bennett's services -- indicates that the Super Bowl champs have created a desirable workplace where new players want to come, and veterans want to stay. Bennett should continue to thrive in Carroll's defense for a number of years.