On Monday morning Michael Bennett was touting suspense.
The Seattle Seahawks’ versatile defensive lineman was making a television appearance with his brother, Martellus, about a day before he could become an unrestricted free agent.
Reports surfaced that Bennett would not re-sign with the Seahawks during the team’s exclusive negotiating period from March 8-11. Some touted the likeliness he would sign with the Chicago Bears to play with his younger brother. Martellus is a tight end there and openly recruited him.
Bennett even played it up on TV.
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But then came Monday afternoon. Bennett was wearing a Seahawks winter hat inside their practice facility. Walking toward a slew of cameras, he asked, “They make y’all work on your day off?”
Everyone was back to work because Bennett
signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $28.5 million, with $16 million guaranteed, to stay with the Seahawks.
At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Seahawks general manager John Schneider labeled Bennett a top offseason priority. Three weeks later, Seattle was able to check Bennett off its to-do list before he hit free agency.
The new contract also comes 10 days after they released defensive end Red Bryant. Essentially, Bennett’s new salary — he made $5 million last season on a one-year deal – replaces Bryant’s, which will help the Seahawks further manage the salary cap.
Prior to re-signing, Bennett explained that free agency doesn’t work like a discount store. On Monday, Bennett was explaining why he took less money to re-sign with the Seahawks.
“A lot of teams tried to get me to come there,” Bennett said. “Ultimately, I wanted to come back here and get a chance to play with these guys. Just win some more games.
“I wanted to be here. There’s a lot of young guys here and a lot of winning ways; I love the organization and the things that they are about.”
Bennett played defensive end and tackle last season for the Seahawks when he led the NFL’s top defense with 8.5 sacks. Amplifying the belief he took less money to stay was the five-year, $42.5 million contract Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen signed Sunday.
Bennett, by almost any comparison, is the better player at this point, though he is two years older than Griffen. An argument that especially benefits Bennett between the two is one focused on efficiency.
Griffen played 699 snaps to Bennett’s 598 last season. Despite the more than 100-snap difference in playing time, Bennett had more sacks (8.5-5.5), combined tackles (31-28) and stuffs (5-3). Yet, he will make less money.
“At the end of the day, it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation,” Bennett said. “Sometimes going to a whole ’nother organization doesn’t work out the way it worked for me coming here and being with these guys.
“Lot of times people take a lot of money and they go places and the place isn’t what (they thought). 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.”
Nobody pushed Bennett harder to sign somewhere else than Martellus. Michael said Martellus understood why he chose to stay with Seattle and not go to Chicago.
“It’s all on me, not really him,” Bennett said.
After signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks last year, Bennett had said he was better prepared to deal with free agency this time. That didn’t make it much easier, though.
“It was like stepping on nails,” Bennett said. “You have to sit there and plan your life in one day. That’s a big job when you have a lot of people depending on you. It’s a big decision you have to make in 48 hours.”
Bennett said he’s not concerned about whether he will have the same role next year, saying he just wants to win games.
“I came here at the beginning of my career,” Bennett said. “To come back here and win a Super Bowl, the fans still remember me from my first year; the fans are one of the biggest reasons I came back.”
Up next for the Seahawks will be a handful of other moves. They have to determine the market for unrestricted free agent wide receiver Golden Tate, who led them in receptions (64) and yards (898) last season.
Defensive end Chris Clemons and tight end Zach Miller each carry large salary cap hits. Seattle will likely look to cut or restructure the contracts of each.
Those decisions will come when free agency fully starts Tuesday at 1 p.m. But early on, the Seahawks have already accomplished their stated top goal.