Monday, March 10, 2014
Price was right for Bennett to stay in Seattle
By Terry Blount
Mission accomplished. The Seattle Seahawks did what they wanted to do and kept the man they really wanted to keep.
Michael Bennett, possibly the No. 1 defensive lineman among this year's free agents, signed a four-year deal with Seattle on Monday that will pay him $28.5 million-plus, including $16 million guaranteed and $10 million for 2014.
“It was close, but I'm happy to be coming back with the Seahawks," Bennett said. “I have a good situation, so why would I want to change it? And I got as much guaranteed as any other contract out there. This is a great team and great organization. I want all our guys to come back."
Seattle general manager John Schneider said all along that re-signing Bennett was a top priority, along with keeping the core of the Super Bowl-winning team together.
Bennett was the team's best defensive lineman last year after signing a one-year contract for $5 million. He had 8.5 sacks and was a constant disruptive force with his ability to play tackle or end.
So the question is, can the Seahawks still re-sign their other top free agents after spending this much money on Bennett? Does this signing mean wide receiver Golden Tate is gone? Does it mean they can't keep defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel? Does it impact the ability to re-sign kicker Steven Hauschka?
The Seahawks were able to keep Bennett for less money than some people thought it would take for him to stay. Some thought Bennett would get as much as $40 million over four years.
What Seattle is paying Bennett is similar to what they would have paid defensive end Red Bryant this year if they had kept him.
Tate is probably Seattle's next priority. The Seahawks released receiver Sidney Rice to free up money to try to keep Tate. But Tate believes he can get more than $7 million per year, possibly from the New York Jets. If so, he is probably gone. If the Seahawks can keep him in the $5 million range for four years, he could return.
Top kickers in the league are getting $3 million or more, which is what Hauschka will want in order to stay. He's worth it. Hauschka missed only two field goals all season, and one of those was blocked.
The Seahawks probably will need to choose between McDonald and McDaniel. If so, they should keep McDonald. He made only $592,000 last year and had a breakout season with 5.5 sacks.
So the price was right for keeping Bennett, who turned down more money from the Chicago Bears. They offered Bennett $32 million over four years. However, Illinois has a state income tax and Washington doesn't, so it's probably a wash.
Bennett said the contract details did play a small part in his decision, but not a big part. The fact is that Bennett wanted to stay in Seattle, despite his earlier words that “this isn't Costco” when asked about giving a hometown discount.
"It's about the fans, the team and the city," he said. "I think this is the No. 1 football city in America."
Bennett also said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman begged him to stay and influenced his decision.
The Seahawks also are likely to make a couple of more moves with veteran players to add salary-cap space. Defensive end Chris Clemons, whose cap value is $9.6 million in 2014, probably will be released, but could re-sign for less money. Tight end Zach Miller, with a cap value of $7 million this year, probably will need to restructure his contract in order to stay.
Once again, Schneider is showing he is the master manipulator on salary-cap issues. He managed to keep one of the defensive stars of a Super Bowl-winning team, and did so for less money than many thought it would take.
Don't count the GM out when it comes to keeping most of the other key free agents who helped Seattle win a championship.