On the eve of the NFL free-agency period, the Seahawks achieved one of their top priorities Monday by re-signing versatile defensive lineman and sack-leader Michael Bennett.
The Seahawks have retained their man.
Versatile defensive lineman Michael Bennett was re-signed Monday on the eve of the start of the NFL’s free agency period. Bennett, who was signed to a one-year contract in free agency last year, led the Super Bowl champions with 8.5 sacks during the regular season and added another 1.5 in the postseason.
Retaining Bennett was a priority for the Seahawks, just as staying with the Seahawks was a goal for Bennett.
“He’s definitely a top priority,” general manager John Schneider said of Bennett at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. “He had a great season. He proved to be durable. Great guy. Fun guy to be around. Hopefully we can get something worked out.”
The 2013 season was Bennett’s second stint with the Seahawks, who signed him as a rookie free agent in 2009 only to lose him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After 3½ seasons with the Buccaneers, who claimed him off waivers in October 2009, Bennett’s was eager to return to the Seahawks.
Bennett’s impact last season could have been even greater, as coach Pete Carroll admitted after the team had gone 13-3 in the regular season and then dispatched the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs before the Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“We didn’t realize how unique of a player he was,” Carroll said during the playoff run. “So we’ve really just tried to move him to the spots we thought he could take advantage of his savvy, awareness and all of that and complement the guys that he’s playing with. He’s been a great player for us.
“As I look at it now, I wish he had more plays early in the first part of the season. We were really spinning our guys and he wasn’t getting as many turns.”
But Bennett managed to make the most of the turns he did get, and made plays from all four spots along the defensive line – in the base defense, as well as the nickel.
During the regular season, he got one of his sacks while on the ground, with an opponent sitting on top of him. He returned a fumble forced by end Cliff Avril for a touchdown. In addition to his 31 tackles and 8.5 sacks, he had a team-leading 25 QB hits. In the postseason, Bennett had 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
And Bennett’s statistics increased along with his play time. He was not credited with a tackle in the season-opener against the eventual NFC South champion Panthers in Carolina. But he started at end in the home opener against the defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers the following week, when Bennett had a sack and two QB hits in the Seahawks’ 29-3 victory. He had 1.5 sacks the next week in a 45-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and three QB hits in the overtime victory against the Texans in Houston the week after that, despite playing only in the first half because of a back injury. In the Week 7 win against the Cardinals in Arizona, he was one of eight players who shared in the Seahawks’ seven sacks. He had his TD return with the fumble recovery in the Week 13 win over the Saints that made the Seahawks the first team to clinch a playoff berth. In the shutout win over the New York Giants two weeks later, Bennett had a sack, four QB hits and forced a fumble.
In the postseason, Bennett had a career-high six tackles and also forced and recovered a fumble to set up a touchdown in the opener against the Saints. In the NFC Championship game against the 49ers, he had another sack, forced another fumble and recovered another fumble.