There are multiple reports this afternoon that Michael Bennett will test free agency rather than sign a new deal with the Seahawks before the signing period begins on Tuesday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the news, since confirmed elsewhere, including by a source to the Seattle Times:
Seattle DE Michael Bennett will be testing the free agent market and will not be re-signing with the Seahawks before March 11th, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2014
That means Seattle will have to sweat it out and compete against what figure to be a lot of other good offers for Bennett, generally considered one of the top defensive linemen available in free agency.
Bennett played for the Seahawks last year on a one-year deal worth $5 million and turned into one of Seattle’s most productive defensive linemen, leading the team with 8.5 sacks and also forcing fumbles in playoff wins over the Saints and 49ers.
Seattle last week released receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant, moves that cleared more than $12 million in salary cap money for the 2014 season, which many figured was money the team would use to try to re-sign Bennett.
Bennett earlier this week had said all conversations with the Seahawks had been “positive” and indicated that a deal could get done before the free agency period begins Tuesday.
Instead, he’ll hit the open market, one that could be a little more competitive with the salary cap having risen to $133 million in 2014 from the $123 million of 2013. Bennett has also said that he is looking for a multi-year deal after having played on a one-year contract last season and looking for a raise from what he got in 2013, with some speculation that he could command $10 million a year.
UPDATE — And as many have noted, the Bennett comes as the Seahawks have yet to make a move with Chris Clemons, who has a $9.7 million salary for next season that many figured the Seahawks would not want to pay. If Bennett walks, though, the Seahawks may want to keep Clemons:
That said, if Michael Bennett leaves would mean that Chris Clemons is safe in Seattle. Lots of dominoes on that one.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 6, 2014