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Schneider: Seahawks don’t intend to use franchise tag on Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett smiles as he listens to a question during a news conference Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. The Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are scheduled to play in the Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Jeff Roberson

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider called re-signing defensive lineman Michael Bennett a “top priority” for the team this offseason.

But using the franchise tag to keep Bennett in Seattle doesn’t appear to be in Schneider’s plans.

“I don’t anticipate that, no,” Schneider said Thursday on the possibility of tagging Bennett at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Bennett had a standout season for Seattle after signing a one-year deal with the team in March. Teaming up with Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons, Bennett was virtually unblockable late in the season as his quickness off the snap caused problems for opposing offenses. Bennett finished the regular season with 8.5 sacks and added 1.5 sacks in the postseason as well.

After taking a “prove it” one-year deal, Bennett has made it no secret that he wants the best deal he can get in free agency, which could make it more difficult for Seattle to keep him.

We are going to try to do whatever we can possible to try to keep this core together and there are going to be tough decisions,” Schneider said, via Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times. “There are a lot of days ahead that are going to be hard because there are going to be tough decisions.

“But if you want to be a consistent, championship-caliber football team, you have to have those tough decisions made. You can’t keep everybody.”

Bennett may be the only real viable candidate for the Seahawks to use the franchise tag this season. They’ve used the tag only once in four seasons since Schneider and Pete Carroll took over the team in 2010 and that was on kicker Olindo Mare their first season with the franchise. If not Bennett, it could be the kicker position once again to get tagged. Steven Hauschka is set to be an unrestricted free agent next month and put together a very solid season for the Seahawks. Hauschka converted 33 of 35 field goal attempts with one miss being a blocked attempt. He also was a perfect 44 for 44 on extra point tries.