Michael Bennett was a steal last season, but the Seahawks must continue their brutal policy of not renegotiating contracts with two or more years left.
Sometimes, no matter how deserving the player, you just have to be brutal. No matter how unfair it seems or how much it might sting.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett isn’t happy with his contract, and it’s easy to see why. The 30-year-old had the best season of his life last year, racking up a career-high 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss en route to a Pro Bowl selection.
Given Bennett’s production over the past two seasons, the four-year, $28.5 million contract Seattle signed him to in 2014 was like paying Kia money for a Cadillac. But the Hawks shouldn’t sweeten his deal.
Harsh as that may sound, in this case — brutality is best.
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If you didn’t hear Bennett’s interview on ESPN 710 Tuesday, here’s the rundown: He informed the public that, despite thinking about a holdout last year, he won’t be missing any part of training camp this summer. And he reaffirmed his adoration of Seattle and its fans, which figured heavily into him signing here in the first place.
But amid the rosy sentiments, he made it clear that his contentment tank wasn’t full.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that goes to work and says: ‘Hey, I’m happy with how much I’m getting paid, and I love it. Don’t pay me any more money,’ ” Bennett said. “So that’s how I feel, too.”
By most accounts, Bennett is one of the five best defensive ends in football, yet he isn’t among the top 15 in salary. So in the ever-volatile world of the NFL, you’d think the Hawks would reward him for playing at a level worth twice as much as he is earning.
But the Seahawks also have a strict policy of not renegotiating contracts with two or more years remaining on them. And while some might argue that such a policy is callous — few will argue that the front office has been anything short of superb.
Since the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era began at the turn of the decade, Seattle has been the class of the NFC. And this isn’t simply due to adept scouting and development — it’s due to salary-cap structure, too.
The Seahawks hook their stars up if there’s a year or less remaining on the contract, but they budge for nobody. Even when Marshawn Lynch held out a couple of years back, management just made more of his money guaranteed — but didn’t add years or extra cash.
Those campaigning for Bennett to get a raise might say, “OK, but what about setting another kind of precedent? What about a system that says ‘if you perform 200 stories above your contract, we’ll dump a few more dollars in your bank account’?”
It’s a reasonable argument, but does it really give a player an extra incentive?
It would behoove Bennett or anyone in a similar situation to give their maximum effort regardless of his front office’s policies. If Bennett were to take some games off this year to try to make a point, it would only hurt him when it was time to sign a new deal.
The Seahawks know exactly what they’re doing, and they proved it with the way they handled Kam Chancellor’s holdout last year. Bennett and Doug Baldwin have already stated that they won’t miss a day of camp.
They know better than to mess with Seattle’s front office, just like the front office knows better than to give any player special treatment. Once you do that, the entire system becomes vulnerable.
It’s hard to blame Bennett for being frustrated. The league is littered with less capable players who make a whole lot more scratch.
But in a weird way, Bennett’s disappointment signifies a Seahawks victory. They didn’t just sign a great player — they stole one.
Don’t worry too much about No. 72. He is still a one-percenter who, barring injury, should have a productive season for Las Vegas’ pick to win the NFC.
And if he does, he will likely be rewarded in the offseason.
Until then, the Seahawks are wise to hold firm on their renegotiation policy no matter how unjust it may seem. In this case, not paying Bennett will pay off for the team.