The Seahawks have more pressing matters than using their franchise tag. More pressing even than starting negotiations with Michael Bennett’s new agent on a contract extension with two years still left on his deal.
A league source with knowledge of the situation said that while Bennett’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, indeed met with the Seahawks last week in Indianapolis during the league’s scouting combine, it wasn’t for negotiating a new deal for the Pro Bowl defensive end.
The league-owned NFL Network and nfl.com reported Sunday that Bennett’s agent and the Seahawks had met about a new deal beyond the $28.5 million one Bennett signed before the 2014 season.
Instead, Hendrickson, who was the agent for retiring running back Marshawn Lynch and whom Bennett hired last month, met with the Seahawks about free agents and clients he has in April’s draft.
One is former Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence. He impressed scouts at January’s Senior Bowl.
The Seahawks have 17 players whose contracts have expired. All can become free agents when the market opens March 9.
General manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and their staff are focused on their prioritized list to re-sign some of those free agents. Right guard J.R. Sweezy, left tackle Russell Okung, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and cornerback Jeremy Lane are likely in that group.
Seattle is not focused right now on a new deal for Bennett when he still has two years remaining on his current one — at least not yet.
Carroll underscored this priority Thursday in a corridor of Lucas Oil Stadium at the combine.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. Really, the guys who are under contract can’t be the first-priority guys right now, in any order,” the coach said. “We are really digging in, trying to keep our team together. And that will always be the way we go about it.”
Bennett had a career-high 10 sacks while playing every game through a foot injury and showing up for training camp on time last summer despite his unhappiness. Strong safety Kam Chancellor took the tack opposite Bennett’s. He held out for more than 50 days into September and missed the first two games, which Seattle lost. Bennett had a far better season, his best yet, while Chancellor missed five games.
So the Seahawks may not feel as motivated to do something for the veteran strong safety as they appear to be for Bennett later this offseason.
“I respect the heck out of him,” Carroll said Thursday of Bennett.
Tuesday’s NFL deadline for a team to designate a man as its franchise player to avoid him entering free agency passed without the Seahawks using theirs.
That’s six consecutive years Seattle hasn’t used the franchise tag. In that time the Seahawks have re-signed core players to extensions without having to use the designation, such as Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Doug Baldwin.
There were nine players given the franchise tag in the league this offseason. The only NFC West one was cornerback Trumaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle