Aug 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (72) during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jody Gomez-USA TODAY Sports
Free agency in football is very much a hit or miss proposition. The fundamental problem is that more often than not teams are paying for past rather than future performance. Some of the more recent free agent splashes in Seahawks history, like Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, have garnered mixed reviews but in 2013 they may just have gotten the steal of the entire free agent class. I’m speaking, of course, of Michael Bennett. It is early to make such a statement to be certain, but at the same time the deal was a one year deal so it’s almost half over.
In a league where pass rushers are prized about all other defense players and coming off a nine sack season with the Buccaneers Michael Bennett looked to be in for quite the pay day. Add in relative youth and some positional versatility and it seemed like there was no way the big bucks were going to elude Bennett. When he signed with the Seahawks on a one year deal worth $4.8 million dollars it’s safe to say it was a little confusing. However, what those observing the free agent market did not realize was that Bennett was dealing with a rotator cuff injury that he would have to play through in 2013. The Seahawks decided they would be the team to take a chance on the defensive end to add to their endless horde of pass rushers and it has paid off enormously so far. Bennett has lined up all over the defensive line (58% of his rushes from the left, 34.3% from the right and 7.7% from defensive tackle) and absolutely menaced opposing offensive lineman this year. Below is a chart showing how he ranks among 4-3 defensive ends in a number of major metrics according to Pro Football Focus:
Pass Rushing Grade
Run Stopping Grade
+ 15.1 (2nd)
While PFF grades are not written in stone, it is readily apparent that Bennett has been an elite player for Seattle this year at a more than reasonable price. The only serious blemish in his game has been penalties; he has committed five already. Presumably that’s something that he can rein in as the season goes on. Bennett brings a more physical element than the three major speed rushers that the Seahawks employ (Irvin, Clemons and Avril) and his ability to bring it from the defensive tackle position helps this team field one of the scariest roster of pass rushers in football. Seattle’s defensive line is starting to look like the Giants of a few years ago and Bennett has been the catalyst so far.
Normally real difference makers rarely make it to free agency and when the do the price is prohibitive to say the least (the Mario Williams contract comes to mind). Bennett seems to be an exception to that rule in 2013. John Schneider has always been good at finding cheap and effective players, but he has done that through the draft. By taking a look in the bargain bin it looks like he’s a dug up a gem. While Bennett is no one’s idea of a superstar, he has played incredibly well so far and is a very important cog in this defensive machine. Although he continues to be an injury risk going forward, his presence on this team represents a major win for this front office. There have been a few of those over the last couple of years.