“I don’t think I was out of control,” Bennett said. “I just hit the quarterback. Just because he’s the quarterback it’s a big deal. Carriers get hit all the time and knocked to the ground, but the only time people care — one, he’s the quarterback and he gets paid a lot of money and people just put this zoom-in screen on it so it becomes a big deal. But I can show you tons of plays where offensive linemen are jumping on guys all the time and it’s not a big deal.”
“I hit him, he got back up. I pushed him back down, he got back up. I pushed him down again. What was I supposed to do, let him get back up?”
These quotes by the effervescent, outspoken Michael Bennett show precisely why the Seahawks must remove Bennett from the equation. Bennett speaks from his heart and never holds back; but his heart appears to be in a place of arrogance, conceit, and selfishness.
Bennett has a reputation for being a comedian and is a favorite of many in the media for always being willing to provide a juicy soundbite. Recently he’s made headlines for saying he didn’t like Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford because Stafford was from Texas. Bennett’s reasoning was that Texas is where JFK was killed. Tongue-in-cheek, probably, but Bennett also interrupted an interview with Kam Chancellor on live television demanding that owner Paul Allen pay him. But as Bennett has no filter in the public eye, it isn’t a stretch to assume he’s got no filter in the privacy of the locker room or the halls of the front office.
Bennett has been a good, not great player for the Seahawks after they re-signed him after the 2012 season. The Seahawks have said they never wanted to let him go after initially signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2009, but they lost him when he was cut to make room for a since-released offensive tackle for depth reasons. Bennett was claimed by Tampa Bay and played 4 decent seasons. When he re-signed with the Hawks, it was for a one-year “prove it” deal as rumors floated that he had a torn rotator cuff. Bennett led the Hawks with 8.5 sacks during their Super Bowl year and was re-signed again with a good-but-not-great 4-year, 28.5 million dollar deal with $16 million guaranteed.
Ever since Bennett signed the deal, he’s harped for more money. Bennett finds a way to bring up his contract in seemingly every conversation, insisting that he’s underpaid and deserves more due to his play. Bennett’s contract is the exact same one that Cliff Avril signed one year later; the contracts are valued at the 13th-richest for defensive ends. When you factor in defensive tackle contracts, where Bennett often slides in on third downs and other passing situations, the value slides to 25th best in the NFL. Yet Avril never mentions his contract status. Could it be that Bennett has a point, that he has outperformed his contract?
In a word, HELLNO. Bennett impacts games for the Seahawks, but it must be noted that he impacts it both positively and negatively. In Bennett’s two full years back with the Hawks, he’s finished tied for 29th and tied for 36th in sacks. Certainly, sacks are not the end-all measure of a defensive lineman’s effectiveness. But one can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers players such as J.J. Watt, Mario Williams or even players such as DeMarcus Ware or Cameron Wake would rack up playing with the Legion of Boom.
However, the negative impact of Bennett is his inane ability to commit penalties in the most inopportune times. The gif above cost the Seahawks 51 yards of field position at the end of the first half against the Bengals. The Hawks drove down the field and salvaged a field goal before intermission, but the lack of a touchdown proved costly in the 27-24 overtime loss. However, this was not even the most costly penalty that Bennett has committed in a Seahawks jersey.
While many Seahawks fans linger on the ugly interception on the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX, the game wasn’t over. New England had possession on the half-yard line. Although improbable, the Seahawks could still conceivably force a safety and get the ball back with a chance for a game-winning field goal attempt. Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots used a hard-count and took advantage of Bennett’s aggressiveness, drawing an encroachment penalty that moved the line of scrimmage of the shadow of the goal line and effectively ended the game.
Coach Pete Carroll loves to rave about Bennett’s aggressiveness and smarts, often praising Bennett for anticipating plays and recognizing what opposing offences are trying to do. But over the past 2 1/4 years (including playoffs), Bennett has been flagged 33 times, with only 6 of those penalties being declined. In the Green Bay game this year alone, Bennett was flagged four times, although all four were declined. However, the results of the four plays were ugly: 1) a 22-yard completion, 2) a 29-yard touchdown pass, 3) a 52-yard penalty on Richard Sherman (GB sends all players on go routes when they realize it’s a free play) and 4) an 8-yard run that stood after offsetting penalties.
Bennett’s contract is set up for the Seahawks to walk away from Bennett next year with minimal impact on the cap. Pay attention specifically to the post-June 1st cuts and trade options. With no more guaranteed money remaining in the contract, there are incentives to both trade and release Bennett at the end of the year. Cutting Bennett after the season saves the Hawks an additional two million in cap room, but doesn’t guarantee any compensation, although it is probable the NFL would award the Seahawks a compensatory pick late in the 2017 draft. Trading Bennett would be a little more feasible. It would be a slightly higher cap hit but would probably net the Hawks a fifth or sixth round pick, which would likely be higher than the compensatory pick.
Moving on from Bennett isn’t unfeasible after the season. With young guys such as Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, Demarcus Dobbs,(remember these names) Ryan Robinson and Robert Thomas, the Hawks are stacked at defensive end. Jordan Hill gains another year to become a force and Jesse Williams has time to recover from cancer without any undue pressure to provide grunt up the middle. Dobbs and Will Tukuafu have proven they can remain stout against the run as well, and with new defensive coordinator Kris Richard’s willingness to blitz more than his predecessors, the defense might not miss Bennett as much as it would appear.