by: Tim Booth Updated:RENTON, Wash. - Free agent defensive end Michael Bennett is returning to Seattle after agreeing to a multi-year deal with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Terms of the contract were not immediately available on Monday. 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.
Bennett was thought to have been strongly pursued by Chicago, where he had a chance of joining his brother, Marcellus, with the Bears. But he ultimately decided to return to Seattle.
Bennett took a chance on himself last offseason by signing a one-year deal for $3 million in base salary. That gamble paid off as Bennett became one of the hottest commodities in free agency.
"I mean I always bet on myself and believe in myself and my talents and being able to come here and get a chance to play with these guys, I knew it was going to be special," Bennett said on Feb. 5.
From the time Seattle was done celebrating its first Super Bowl championship, Bennett indicated a desire to stay with the Seahawks but only for the right price. He knew this was his one chance to cash in on a big contract as an unrestricted free agent. It's why Bennett waited until after teams could begin speaking with agents regarding unrestricted free agents and seeing what was available on the open market before deciding on a return to Seattle.
"I love the team, I love my teammates. I mean Pete (Carroll) does a great job of letting us play. So I want to be a part of that," Bennett said after the victory parade. "I know we can go back and win the Super Bowl again with all of these guys, but it's a business. But I definitely want to be back."
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. 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.
"We want this team together, we want to see if we can keep this team together," Carroll said following the Super Bowl. "Every decision is difficult that we have to face and guys that are at the end of their contracts, those are big issues for us. We love the guys, we love what they do and what they bring, and we'd like to keep together as best as we can."
Bennett had 8½ 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.
In the postseason, Bennett was even more impactful. 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.
Copyright The Associated Press