Using their franchise tag? Starting negotiations with Michael Bennett’s new agent on a contract extension with two years still left on his deal?
Nope and nope. The Seahawks have more pressing matters. Seventeen of them, in fact.
The News Tribune learned from a league source who knows the situation that while Bennett’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, 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 Bennett’s agent and the Seahawks had met about getting a new deal beyond the $28.5 million one Bennett signed before the 2014 season.
Instead, I’m told Hendrickson, the agent for retiring Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch that Bennett hired last month, met with Seattle’s decision makers on league free agents and clients he has in April’s draft. One of his new clients is former Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence. Spence impressed NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl in January.
The source didn’t want to be identified because the Seahawks don’t talk publicly about which contracts they are negotiating before a player signs.
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 following through 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. Team brass 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 while talking in a corridor of Lucas Oil Stadium at the combine in Indiana.
“Well, Mike did all the things he’s supposed to do, you know,” Carroll said of Bennett’s 2015 season. “And he did it with a flair. I love that he brought leadership. He brought great energy – and really terrific consistency, too – to our season. We’d like to reward everybody. Can’t always do that.”
Asked about Kam Chancellor, who is also unhappy with his contract that has two years remaining, the coach said: “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. We are really digging in, trying to keep our team together. And that will always be the way we go about it.
“We love Kam, and Mike – the question, you brought that up – we love those guys. And we are going to do all we can to make sure they can stay with us.”
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. I’ve discussed how he may have earned the Lynch-like addition of future money moved to up-front guaranteed cash. Chancellor took the opposite tack of Bennett last summer, holding out for more than 50 days and missing the first two games of the season that Seattle lost. It was clear in Indianapolis last week that Chancellor’s was the wrong way to go about contract unhappiness, in the Seahawks’ minds. Plus, Bennett had a far better year on the field last season 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 keep him for 2016 and avoid him entering free agency passed Tuesday. As expected, the Seahawks didn’t use theirs. That’s six consecutive years Seattle hasn’t used the franchise tag. In that time the Seahawks have re-signed their core players to extensions without having to use the tag, such as Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin.
There were 10 total players given the franchise tag in the league this offseason. The only NFC West one was cornerback Trumaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams.