A year ago, before the Seahawks had even signed Michael Bennett from Tampa Bay, coach Pete Carroll talked about the plan he and general manager John Schneider had for keeping the roster together and competitive.
There was one key element.
"We'll need some cooperation from guys who want to be part of our team to really give us the chance to stay really strong as we move forward," he told John Clayton on 710 ESPN at the Combine in February 2013.
A year later, with the Seahawks coming off their first Super Bowl victory, they got some cooperation from Bennett, who was a key figure in the league's best defense and was considered a must-keep.
Bennett recently had dismissed the idea of a Dynasty Discount, telling NFL Network, "There’s no such thing as a discount. This is not Costco. This is not Walmart. This is real life. There’s no discount, really, because you don’t go out there and give a discount effort. You go out there and give the best effort every day, you fight for your teammates, and you want to be compensated for the way you perform and the kind of teammate you are.”
But he did in fact give the Hawks a discount, signing for a reported $28.5 million over four years, with $16 million guaranteed. He said two other teams, the Chicago Bears known to have been one, offered more overall money but the guaranteed portion was no better than what the Hawks gave him.
On Sunday, the Bears reportedly were the favorites to sign Bennett. But he ultimately did not want to leave Seattle, his teammates or a team seemingly poised to create a Super Bowl dynasty.
And, for that, he was willing to forgo a couple million.
The Seahawks got him for about what we thought they could, but it looked for a little bit as though the Bears would steal him away with something over $9 million a year.
Bennett's deal is not as big as the one defensive end Everson Griffen signed with Minnesota. Griffen, who is expected to replace Jared Allen, reportedly received $42 million over five years, with $20 million guaranteed.
But Bennett reportedly will make $16 million guaranteed over the first two years, so it's comparable early.
And Bennett simply did not want to leave.
"I don't think there's any better situation, no matter how much money is involved," he told 710 ESPN after signing.
Late last season, Carroll lamented the fact that he did not play Bennett more early in the season. Bennett played 57 percent of the snaps in 2013 and led the team with 8.5 sacks.
On Monday, Carroll told Sirius FM NFL, "We are excited to keep Michael and we really need to play him more."
With Red Bryant gone, Bennett would appear to be the front-runner to start at five-technique, while moving inside on passing downs. He and Cliff Avril formed a dangerous duo in the latter part of the season and the playoffs, so they should be able to build on that rapport in 2014.
The Hawks are not finished with the defensive line. They still have to re-sign or replace three guys – four if they decide to part ways with Chris Clemons.
Red Bryant is gone to Jacksonville, but Bennett said he is trying to recruit the McD's -- Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel -- to come back. Of course, there are the obvious questions of whether the team wants them back and which price would work for both.
McDonald figures to get some decent offers this week. He is just 27 and is coming off his best season (5.5 sacks). Teams with a need for an interior pass rusher could throw some money at him – maybe $4 million or so per year. It could be tough for Seattle to get him back. But the Hawks have a replacement in the pipeline: Jordan Hill.
The Hawks could bring back McDaniel, 29, for a year or two on close-to-minimum salaries. Or they could see how cheaply they could add a veteran defensive tackle such as Henry Melton, Alex Carrington, Jason Hatcher, Paul Soliai or Randy Starks.
Clemons' future probably will be decided after the Hawks gauge the market for veteran pass rushers. The team is not likely to pay Clemons, 32, his scheduled $7.5 million salary – if he's not interested in a pay cut, the team will bring in someone who is.
Among the veteran pass rushers they could check into are Jared Allen (31), Justin Tuck (31), Antonio Smith (33) and possibly DeMarcus Ware (31).
It certainly is possible the Hawks could make a run at a premier lineman such as Michael Johnson or Lamarr Houston, but their price tags are likely to be too high.
Golden Tate can wait. Especially after Bennett gave them a Dynasty Discount, the Hawks are not going to overpay Tate.
They probably will let him gauge his value on the market, and if he gets an offer worth more than $5 million per year that is likely where he will end up.
The Jets, run by former Seahawks exec John Idzik, have been mentioned frequently as a potential landing spot. They cut Santonio Holmes and need a replacement.
If Tate is not signed by next week, his price probably will be right for Seattle. But since he is considered the third-best receiver on the market, he figures to sign elsewhere.
Speaking of Dynasty Discounts, will Richard Sherman offer one to Seattle? Bennett said, "Richard Sherman is one of the main reasons why I came back, too. He was on me the whole time and just told me he really wanted me to come back and how much I meant to the defense."
So does that mean Sherman will be willing to take less on an extension, too? Based on recent cornerback contracts, he could be in line for $12 million a year and $30 million guaranteed. But would he take 10 and 25?
Red Bryant reunited with Gus Bradley for a deal reportedly worth $17 million over four years. There has been no report that the Hawks offered him a pay cut before releasing him on Feb. 28. But they probably were not willing to pay him $4 million a year.
Bryant said Green Bay, Kansas City and Washington also were interested.
“When one door closes, another opportunity opens,” he told Jaguars.com. “I’ve been very fortunate that I had other teams willing to bring me in and make me a part of their franchise. It’s a win-win for everybody. The Seahawks had to do what was best for them and their program. I was able to go somewhere else where they felt like I could still contribute and have a big part of their success in the future. It’s bittersweet, but that’s life. You always have to be willing to transition and my profession is no different than anybody else’s profession in that you just have to go on and make the best of your opportunities.
“I know it’s a business from the top down and I believe Jacksonville is definitely moving in the right direction, and I am excited about being there.”
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin understands the business, too. The restricted free agent was tendered at the second-round level (i.e., $2.187 million), although he seems confident he will get an extension from the team at some point.
"There are steps in this process that we have to wait on before we can move forward with it,” he told Q13 FOX. “There are a lot of things that have to happen. We have to care of the unrestricted free agents and then they can get to me.”
The Seahawks did not tender backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre, who also was restricted, but they did give him more than the minimum. He reportedly got $950,000, including $250,000 guaranteed. He is a valuable role player – he started three games for Max Unger last season – so it was nice the Hawks could keep him.
As expected, the Hawks retained tight end Anthony McCoy, who missed last season while recovering from a torn Achilles suffered during May minicamp. McCoy, who probably signed for the minimum $730,000, should push Luke Willson for playing time in 2014.
It will be interesting to see what the Hawks do with safety Jeron Johnson, whom they tendered at $2.187 million. Either they could not arrange a deal like they gave Jeanpierre or else they simply plan to get Johnson to take a pay cut in the summer. In the meantime, he is eating up about $1.5 million more than he should be.
Based on rankings from NFL.com, Pro Football Talk and Rotoworld, the Hawks' top free agents are Tate (average rank of 38), CB Walter Thurmond (41) and McDonald (73). Others mentioned deep on the lists are CB Brandon Browner, OT Breno Giacomini, LB O'Brien Schofield, K Steven Hauschka and McDaniel.
Tate, Thurmond, McDonald and Schofield seem to be the guys who might draw the most interest – mainly because of their youth and ascending ability. Browner probably will last until summer because of his four-game suspension, and it is hard to say what kind of interest Giacomini, Hauschka and McDaniel might garner.