General manager John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks got an early start to free agency. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the organization locked up its most prized possession on Monday when it re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett to a four-year, $28.5 million deal.
Of the $28.5 million total, Bennett is guaranteed $16 million. He will earn $10 million in 2014 and $16 million through the first two years of the deal. Outside of that, it’s hazy as to how much he will specifically make in years two, three and four.
Nevertheless, Bennett and the Seahawks struck the perfect contract to start Seattle's title defense.
Why? Because Bennett’s deal is a cap-friendly one. This, in turn, means the Seahawks now have enough money to re-sign wide receiver Golden Tate, keep fellow defensive end Chris Clemons and possibly ink safety Earl Thomas to a long-term extension.
Per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times, one should expect Bennett’s cap number to come in at $7.2 million in 2014. Based on the fact Red Bryant was scheduled to carry a cap number of $8.5 million, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Bennett’s cap number is similar. The Seahawks figured they wouldn’t be able to keep both defensive ends, which is why Bryant had to go.
Clearly, Seattle made the right move. In 617 snaps (playoffs included), Bennett tallied 8.5 quarterback sacks, 17 quarterback hits and 39 quarterback hurries. Moreover, the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) awarded him with a plus-24.2 regular-season grade. That was the fifth-highest grade of any 4-3 defensive end.
The crazy thing is Bennett would have easily finished with the second-highest grade at his position if it weren’t for a few costly penalties. In total, the fifth-year player out of Texas A&M amassed nine penalties. Per NFLPenalties.com, three of his nine penalties were neutral zone infractions, and two were offsides penalties.
Obviously, the Seahawks will want Bennett’s penalty numbers to go down, yet by no means will it be a concern if they don’t. That’s the only real downfall he has, and Seattle knows a good portion of Bennett’s pass-rushing success came from correctly anticipating the snap, which is something he will be asked to a lot more of in 2014.
Despite playing more snaps than any other Seahawks’ defensive lineman, head coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that Seattle needs to increase Bennett's reps going forward. Here’s what Carroll told Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on Sirius XM NFL Radio: “We really need to play him more.”
Carroll is right: The Seahawks do have to play Bennett more.
However, increased reps means heightened expectations for the 28-year-old defensive end. That is not a bad thing when you look at how well Bennett played on a per-snap basis, yet there’s no guarantee he will perform any better than he did in 2013.
Seattle will have to cover its basis and make sure Bennett’s conditioning is in order before he plays 800-plus snaps. If his conditioning isn’t where it needs to be, his play could severely suffer. Even if he puts up nine quarterback sacks, 20 quarterback hits and 40 quarterback pressures, he will be viewed as a less-productive rusher than he was last year.
When you take the time to evaluate the pass-rushing productivity of a particular player, it’s important to break it down on a per-snap basis. That’s the most efficient way to assess the given pass-rushers value.
The good news is it seems like Bennett’s conditioning is where it needs to be. Through the final three games of the season (playoffs), he put together the best three-game stretch of his career. Per PFF, he recorded a plus-6.6 pass-rush grade, a plus 4.2 run-defense grade and a plus-12 grade overall.
Let’s not forget, he played 69 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in those three games. That was much higher than the average he accumulated in the regular season. On average, he played 57 percent of the team's defensive snaps during the regular season.
For those of you who are trying to predict his snap count in 2014, that three-game stretch in the playoffs is a good indicator.
It’s evident Bennett would have been asked to play a bigger role in a city like Chicago, yet he’s aware that there’s only so much he can do on an individual level. He’s also happy with his teammates and the city of Seattle. Here’s what Bennett told reporters after he signed his contract extension, via Curtis Crabtree of SportsRadioKJR.com:
I wanted to be here. There are a lot of young guys here and a lot of winning ways. It was about being comfortable and being in a good situation. Sometimes going to another organization doesn't work out the way it worked out for me coming here and being with these guys. I know what this place is. I'm familiar with the staff and the players and it makes it a big deal to be here.
With their biggest offseason priority behind them, the Seahawks can now breathe a sigh of relief and focus on bringing home their second straight Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).