— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) March 10, 2014
The Seahawks did what they had to.
It’s easy to forget just how crucial Michael Bennett was last year.
He’s not underrated, far from it. He’s interesting enough and high profile enough to never fly under the radar.
But he’s not Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. Or Marshawn Lynch. Or Russell Wilson.
And if you’re not one of those four, there’s a perception Seattle can get by without.
It’s a terrible perception, because they couldn’t get by without Michael Bennett.
Not everyone on this roster is irreplaceable. In fact they’ll probably get the chance to prove that when Golden Tate, Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Steven Hauschka and Breno Giacomini hit the open market tomorrow.
Ideally you’d keep all five. But this isn’t an ideal world.
Bennett was a completely different kettle of fish.
They’ve been looking for this type of player for some time. Someone who can knit the pass rush together and make it truly effective.
Chris Clemons couldn’t do it on his own. For three years he tried.
Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett provided the help he needed. And with Clemons struggling to reach his very best aged 32 and coming off an ACL injury, the two new recruits helped take the defense to another level.
Bennett was pivotal to that.
With Clemons rushing the edge, the Seahawks were too one dimensional. It was only pressure from one side. Bruce Irvin provided some balance in 2012, but it wasn’t consistent. And there was nobody crashing the interior.
There aren’t many Michael Bennett’s in the NFL. Someone who can genuinely line up in the middle and not concede leverage against the run, yet can also play defensive end and round the edge with speed or power.
Suddenly they were attacking teams from all angles. It became very difficult to react to certain looks. Quarterbacks couldn’t just shift protection to the side Clemons was monitoring.
In the second half of the season and in particular the playoffs, Bennett and Avril combined repeatedly to attack one side with great success.
Seattle’s pass rush was legit for the first time in a long time.
How important was that? It meant the world. Finally the Seahawks could make the most of an uber-talented secondary. You can’t coverage-sack your way to domination. You need guys up front who flat out get after it.
Losing Bennett was comparable, in my opinion, to losing Richard Sherman at cornerback. Not necessarily devastating, but man what a gaping hole to fill.
There wasn’t anyone similar available in free agency. Guys like Jared Allen and Henry Melton just aren’t the same type of rusher.
The draft? No chance. This isn’t the year to try and replace your best pass rusher with a rookie. Not unless you own a top-five pick.
This was an absolutely vital signing.
Let’s put it this way. They might be able to replace Tate, Giacomini, McDonald, McDaniel and Hauschka and still make it back to the Super Bowl next year. There’d be a drop off, but c’est la vie.
I’m not sure they had any chance at replacing Bennett and the impact he’s had.
Yet again John Schneider pulls it off. He let a player take a check on his value and still got the deal done, despite heavy interest elsewhere (especially Chicago).
What’s more, it appears the Seahawks got a great deal. Mike Florio is reporting a $28.5m contract over four years.
Everson Griffen, with one career start, gets $8.5M/year with Vikings. Michael Bennett takes $7.125M/year to stay in Seattle.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 10, 2014
Two teams offered DE Michael Bennett more money but he opted to re-sign with SEA for 4 years, $28.5 million, including $10 million in 2014.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 10, 2014
That’s some outstanding negotiating on behalf of Schneider and the Seahawks front office.
It also goes to show how much Bennett enjoyed his year back in Seattle.
Clearly, he wanted to remain part of this team.
So what does it mean for the rest of free agency?
They might be able to structure the deal to limit the cap hit in year one (eg $4-5m cap hit).
Other big contracts will come off the books over the next couple of years, so it makes a degree of sense. With the overall cap also set to keep rising by about $10m a year until 2016, they might be able to maintain enough room to re-sign their other free agents.
I still expect Tate back with the team. He’ll get some interest elsewhere, but I suspect they’ll find a way to keep him — even if it does mean spending a little more than they originally intended.
We’ll have to wait and see what the market is for Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Both players, along with Breno Giacomini, are more likely to re-sign with the Seahawks the longer they remain unsigned.
I bet they’d love to retain Chris Clemons and keep their three-pronged pass rush together. Creating $7.5m in extra cap space will also be tempting.
At least with Bennett signed up they can feel better about cutting and attempting to re-sign Clemons to a cheaper deal. They could also look at a player like Jared Allen, depending on what interest he’s getting.
Would you be willing to swap Clemons for Allen on a $5-6m deal? It’d be a $1.5-2.5m total saving.
Alternatively they could use the $7.5m to re-sign the teams other free agents first, then re-assessing the situation afterwards with Clemons or anyone else.
They may even introduce Benson Mayowa into a more active role. There’s a reason why they red-shirted and protected him throughout last season, while other promising young players were cut and ultimately lost.
If the Seahawks can go into the draft having re-signed Bennett, Tate and Giacomini — they can feel very happy about their situation.
Essentially, the player they’re drafting at #32 won’t be replacing a key starter. It’ll give them an opportunity to add a Joel Bitonio to play left guard, or another receiver to add to their current group. Or, if the board is kind, yet another pass rusher.
Whatever happens, today is a good day for this team — and the first step towards making 2014 another Championship season.
It looks like Michael Bennett wasn’t the only player to re-sign with the Seahawks today…
TE Anthony McCoy has agreed to terms to stay in Seattle with the #Seahawks, per a league source.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) March 10, 2014