RENTON, Wash. (AP) Michael Bennett gambled last offseason that playing on a one-year deal in Seattle would pay off in the future with the long-term contract he always wanted.
He was proven to be correct. Bennett now has a Super Bowl title and a new four-year contract that will keep him with the Seahawks.
"I don't know if there was any doubt, but there was a lot of speculation a lot of teams tried to get me to come there," Bennett said Monday after signing his new deal. "But ultimately I wanted to come back and play with these guys and win some more games."
Bennett was considered one of the top free agents in the NFL after a breakout season with the Seahawks where he led the team in sacks and proved a versatile option as a defensive end and defensive tackle. But he never made it all the way to the start of free agency Tuesday after the Seahawks came up with a satisfactory deal.
Terms were not announced by the team. Pro Football Talk reported Bennett's deal was worth about $28.5 million with $16 guaranteed. Bennett said there were other teams offering more money, but the guaranteed amount was most important.
Bennett was thought to have been strongly pursued by Chicago, where he had a chance of joining his brother, Martellus, with the Bears. But he ultimately decided to return to Seattle.
"Yeah there was more, but I wanted to be here man. There are a lot of young guys here, and there are a lot of winning ways and I just love the organization and the things that they are about. I love the staff, from the equipment staff to the medical staff; it just goes on and on."
Lost in the speculation about Bennett's future was his history with Seattle and specifically defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Seahawks signed Bennett as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2009 and gave him a spot on their roster for the start of that season when Quinn was his defensive line coach. Even though he was eventually waived and claimed by Tampa Bay, that initial relationship with Seattle remained strong.
It's partly why Bennett jumped at the chance to return last offseason with Quinn as the new defensive coordinator, even if it meant playing on a one-year deal that paid only $3 million in base salary. It's also a factor in why he's staying now.
"At the end of the day, it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation," Bennett said. "Sometimes going to a whole other organization doesn't work out the way it worked out for me coming here and being with these guys. A lot of times people take a lot of money and they go to places and they're not what they turned out to be. I know what this place is. I'm familiar with the staff and players and it makes a big deal to be here."
Seattle seemed to understand what it would take to retain Bennett. The Seahawks parted with defensive end Red Bryant and wide receiver Sidney Rice to create additional salary cap space. Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been steadfast that their top priorities in free agency were retaining their own players and not making big splashes by signing others. Bennett was at the top of the list with wide receiver Golden Tate not far behind.
Bennett had 8 1/2 sacks in the regular season and a fumble return for a touchdown. His numbers would have likely been higher had the Seahawks figured out earlier in the season how best to utilize their defensive line rotation.
Bennett had even more impact in the playoffs. He had a forced fumble and recovery that gave Seattle an early lead in the NFC divisional playoff win over New Orleans, and added one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the NFC championship game against San Francisco.
"We had hopes he would be a real contributor and he exceeded our expectations and we're excited to keep him," Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday. "He's got great energy, a terrific motor and he's a very versatile football player. We really need to play him more. He didn't play a lot of plays the first half of the season, we specialty played him, and then we played him more as the year went on. We got better and he helped us. We're excited about it."