The Seattle Seahawks signed defensive lineman Michael Bennett to a three-year contract extension Friday morning.
The wait is over and the weight is lifted for Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who signed a three-year contract extension with the team Friday morning, with sources confirming it is worth $31.5 million overall.
The deal, which makes him among the top 10 highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL, will keep him with Seattle through the 2020 season, fulfilling a goal of allowing him to retire with the Seahawks.
“It’s pretty cool, man, to have it somewhere where you put in a lot of hard work and done a lot of great things for the organization and to actually get a chance to retire in that same place is always special,” Bennett said after practice Friday.
Bennett will get $17.5 million guaranteed and will earn $16 million in 2017 and $19 million by March 5, 2018, sources confirmed. The Schultz Report first reported the terms.
Bennett signed the contract Friday morning and the team announced it officially in the early afternoon.
Bennett and the Seahawks have been known to be in negotiations for months on a new deal to extend the four-year, $28.5 million contract he received in the spring of 2014, a deal that included $16 million guaranteed.
Bennett, in fact, began publicly campaigning for a new contract in the spring of 2015, feeling he had outplayed the deal he had signed just over a year earlier — due in part to other defensive linemen agreeing to new deals, Bennett had fallen to being the 26th-highest paid defensive lineman entering the 2016 season.
The team had resisted, not wanting to break a precedent of re-signing players who have contracts with more than a year remaining. But with just a few days left until Bennett would be entering the final year of his deal, a new contract got done.
Bennett said “it’s always difficult” having to wait out a new contract. “When you finally get it, you feel happy,” he said. “You feel like you deserved it and earned it.”
Teammate and good friend Cliff Avril, who has been in similar situations, signing a new contract with the Seahawks in 2014 just a few months before he could have entered free agency, said there was no question that Bennett’s contract situation at times weighed on him.
“I’ve been through it so I know it does,’’ Avril said. “You try not to think about it but it’s something hanging over your head because you get into those situations, you don’t want to get hurt because the team has the leverage and all those different things. So I know that it definitely does.’’
Bennett, in fact, had just that scenario this season when he suffered cartilage damage in his knee in October, an injury that required arthroscopic surgery and caused him to miss five games.
Bennett, though, said he wasn’t nervous during the injury about how it might impact his contract situation.
“During that time I think it was mostly just rehabbing and getting focused on getting back and coming back healthy,” he said. “I wanted to come back and be the same player and I was lucky enough to have that happen.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised the way Bennett handled his desire for a new contract while not letting it impact his play during practice and games.
“Mike expressed something quite a while back (about a new contract) and so it’s come to this day where we finally have a chance to finally make a statement about it,” Carroll said. “He’s always done his thing, he’s always done football the way he’s supposed to do it, always been a good team guy. He’s always fought for us just as well as anybody on this team.
At $10.5 million a season Bennett would move into being the 10th-highest paid defensive lineman, according to Spotrac.com.
“Michael is extremely excited and appreciative of Seattle and (owner) Paul Allen and (general manager) John Schneider and (coach) Pete Carroll for redoing his contract,’’ Doug Hendrickson, Bennett’s agent, told the Times Friday morning. “He wanted to stay in Seattle and he wanted to retire as a Seahawk and this will allow him to do that, so he is tremendously excited to have them rework his deal and pay him more commensurate to what the top defensive linemen are making.’’
While the timing could be perceived as slightly setting a new precedent, getting the contract completed now also potentially helps the Seahawks in allowing the team to account for part of Bennett’s signing bonus in 2016, with the team knowing it now has some salary cap space to burn with the season now essentially over.
Bennett last winter changed agents, firing Drew Rosenhaus and hiring Hendrickson, also the agent for Marshawn Lynch and former Seahawk Marcus Trufant, in hopes of getting a new deal done.
“We know them extremely well through all the Lynch battles and obviously Bennett and they definitely take care of their players,’’ Hendrickson said. “And in this situation they did what was right.’’
Bennett, who turned 31 in November, was named to a second straight Pro Bowl this season despite having so far played in just 10 games due to the knee injury suffered on a chop block from Atlanta’s Jake Matthews.
Bennett had thought about holding out in 2015 in an attempt to get a new deal. It was also thought he considered it again this off-season, though he said publicly that it had not been a serious consideration, saying in May he wouldn’t hold out.
Seattle appears in good salary cap shape entering the off-season as it has few unrestricted free agents — none of the team’s 22 position starters are scheduled to be UFA, with kicker Steven Hauschka and tight end Luke Willson serving as the most notable potential unrestricted free agents. One player who will be entering the final year of his contract in 2017 — like Bennett would have been — is strong safety Kam Chancellor, and the team may have to consider a new contract for him in the off-season, as well.
Re-signing Bennett also continues the team’s philosophy of keeping its core players in the fold, Carroll on Friday saying that Bennett was “the next man up” who deserved a new contract.
“We’ve rewarded the guys who have been with us and been our core players, our core leadership, and this is just another expression of that,” Carroll said.
Bennett, though, becomes the only player other than Lynch to sign a second significant deal with the team. It’s his third contract with the Seahawks overall. He signed a one-year contract for $5 million in 2013 to come back to Seattle after playing four seasons in Tampa Bay and then becoming an unrestricted free agent. Bennett began his career with Seattle in 2009, initially making the team as an undrafted free agent before being waived by Seattle and then claimed by Tampa Bay.
After becoming a key player on the Super Bowl title team of 2013, Bennett signed a four-year, $28.5 million deal just as the free agent signing period approached.
Bennett played 57 percent of the snaps in 2013 but then saw his playing time rise to 81 and 84 percent of the snaps the next two seasons, one reason he felt a new contract was deserved. Friday, he and the Seahawks finally got it done.