RENTON – The Seahawks’ primary objective entering the NFL free-agent signing period is to keep as much of their Super Bowl-winning team together as possible.
Monday, a day before unrestricted free agents can begin signing with other teams, they took a big step toward that goal, re-signing defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who figured to be one of the most sought-after players on the market.
Bennett, who led the Seahawks in sacks in 2013 with 8.5, signed a four-year contract Monday afternoon worth $28.5 million, with $16 million guaranteed.
Bennett said he had offers from other teams for more money. In fact, the Bears, where his brother Martellus plays, were so hot after Bennett that one newspaper in Chicago wrote Monday that it was expected by some officials with NFL teams that Bennett would sign Tuesday with Chicago.
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Bennett, though, said that the guaranteed dollar figure offered by Seattle, as well as the chance to stay with a team he knows, won out over potentially a bigger overall paycheck elsewhere.
“At the end of the day it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation,’’ said Bennett, who began his career with the Seahawks in 2009 before being released and playing four years in Tampa Bay.
“Sometimes going to a whole other organization doesn’t work out the way it worked out for me coming here and being with these guys. I saw people take a lot of money and they go to other places and that place isn’t what you thought it would be. 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.”
Seattle made clear how big of a deal it thought it was to retain Bennett when it released veteran Red Bryant two weeks ago to create room under the salary cap to bring him back.
Bennett will anchor a Seattle defensive line that could still undergo changes. Defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel will each become free agents Tuesday, and the team might still try to find a way to bring back Chris Clemons at a salary less than the $9.7 million he is scheduled to make in 2014.
Bennett, 28, played last season on a one-year, $5 million deal. The Seahawks initially viewed him as a player whose role would be to play mostly on passing downs, but Bennett’s playing time increased. He showed he could hold up against the run and eventually played 58 percent of defensive snaps, the most on the line.
“He exceeded our expectations and we are excited to keep him,’’ coach Pete Carroll said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We’re very fortunate we were able to figure this out.’’
Carroll said to expect Bennett to play more in 2014, helping with some run defense responsibilities handled last season by Bryant. Carroll called the decision to release Bryant, who is listed at 323 pounds, an opportunity to “kind of evolve and shift gears a little bit’’ with the defensive line, saying, “We’re going with the strengths of the players we have.’’
Carroll said, “Our focus is keeping our own guys and keeping this team together the best we can.’’
Seattle has 13 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents, led by receiver Golden Tate. The Seahawks might not be inclined to enter into a bidding war for Tate if offers go beyond the $5 million to $6 million range.
Other key Seattle free agents include cornerback Walter Thurmond, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and kicker Steven Hauschka.
The Seahawks have to navigate free agency while keeping money in the bank to give extensions to a few core members the next year, notably safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson. The team might give Thomas an extension within a month.
As for Bennett, the worrying is over.
“I can’t say it was fun,’’ he said of the past few days of pondering his future. “It’s kind of like stepping on nails. You have to sit there and plan your life in one day and that’s a big job when you have a lot of people depending on you, when you have a lot of people tugging on you, when you have a lot of people you’re friends with or your family want you to make a decision. It’s a big decision that you have to make in 48 hours.”
• Seattle is nearing an agreement to keep tight end Anthony McCoy, who was scheduled to become a free agent. McCoy missed the 2013 season with an Achilles injury after catching 18 passes for 291 yards in 2012.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.