Michael Bennett said he probably won’t be back in 2018. Is he right?

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 10, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 10, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Michael Bennett doubts he’ll be back with the Seahawks in 2018. Is it more likely Seattle will trade him, or will they keep him?

There’s little doubt that the Seahawks will see significant changes to their roster for 2018. Just yesterday we talked about the prospects of the team keeping Jimmy Graham. While Graham seems fairly likely to move on for the reasons we discussed there, Michael Bennett is a very different case.

The most obvious difference is their contract status. Bennett is under contract with the Seahawks for three more years. Seattle knows exactly what it will cost to keep their star defensive end on the team, unlike Graham. For 2018 the Seahawks will owe Bennett just under $8.4 million. If they decide to get out of that contract, they’re much more likely to trade him than cut him. Releasing Bennett before the coming season would count $5.2 million against the salary cap. The Seahawks simply don’t the cap space to do that. If Bennett is right, a trade would be his ticket out of Seattle, not a release.

So where could Michael Bennett go? One possible destination is Atlanta. Cory Woodruff of SB Nation’s The Falcoholic wrote a very interesting piece on this possibility just the other day. Woodruff mentions the long-standing relationship between Falcons head coach Dan Quinn as a key factor in a possible trade.

Bennett shared his thoughts about Quinn a year ago with the Seattle Times Bob Condotta:

"“Me and Dan go way back,” Bennett recalled. “He was one of the main people who brought me to Seattle in the first place. We just have a really good relationship, I kept in contact with him when he was in Florida, always going over my pass rush and going over different things that I can develop as a player and be a better player. I got the chance when he called me, of course Pete (Carroll) called me but I didn’t know who Pete Carroll was, but Dan called me first and was like, ‘You should come down here, I think we have something good, we just need an inside rusher.’ I was like, ‘okay, so I just came out here.”’"

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Michael Bennett could bring goodies from Atlanta

The Falcons have players and picks to trade. Atlanta has its own pick in every round, except the fifth. As Woodruff mentioned, they also have a couple of defensive ends the Seahawks might take in a package with a mid-round pick in Brooks Reed or Derrick Shelby. Reed is two years younger than Bennett, Shelby four years younger. Both would be significantly cheaper, about $3 million less than Bennett. Reed actually graded out ahead of Bennett according to Pro Football Focus. No, he isn’t really better, but he isn’t just a body, either. Shelby didn’t grade as well, but is more similar to Bennett physically, and can play up and down the line.

Or the Falcons could possibly send a second round pick straight up. I don’t think they’d do that, but it’s a possibility. I don’t know that I’d trade a second round pick for a 32 year old defensive lineman that played through a lot of nagging injuries in 2017, and missed five games the year before. Then again, Bennett is almost always a disruptive force from anywhere on the line. Draft picks are crap shoots, to some extent. Coach Quinn certainly knows what he’d be getting in Bennett.

Seahawks have a lot to consider before making any move

Whether the Seahawks would be willing to make this move, or any move, depends on a lot of moving pieces in Seattle. Will Cliff Avril be back? Will last year’s first pick Malik McDowell be ready to play in 2018? Dion Jordan is a restricted free agent. He posted four sacks in just five games. Could he approach that production as a full-time player?

Right now Seattle can only count on Frank Clark and Michael Bennett to anchor the ends. If there is a trade, I think it would likely come after the draft, closer to the start of the season. By then, the Seahawks will have a much better picture of the injury situation for Avril and McDowell. They should be able to re-sign Jordan without too much of an outlay. If he looks close to finally fulfilling the promise of being the third overall pick, Seattle may be much more comfortable in moving Bennett at that point.

Off the field, Bennett certainly has his detractors. Some 12s may be happier to see him move on. I believe most fans only focus on his play on the field. Pete Carroll has always been very supportive of all his players and their right to voice their opinion. I don’t think Bennett’s social stance will have any bearing at all on his status with the Seahawks.

Related Story: Who's available in the draft as defensive end?

In the end, I think Michael Bennett will be playing at CenturyLink in 2018. Although if he doesn’t clean up those offsides penalties, he may spend a couple days in Coach Norton’s doghouse.