Without receiving much interest from the Buccaneers, defensive end Michael Bennett, who led the team with a career-high nine sacks in 2012, could be leaving Tampa Bay as NFL free agency opens on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. Bennett has received a good deal of interest from other teams.
On the eve of free agency, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not shown much interest in re-signing defensive end Michael Bennett, the team’s best pass rusher. Bennett, who will become an unrestricted free agent at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday when the 2013 NFL free agency period opens, had a career-high nine sacks to lead the Buccaneers, in addition to a team-high three forced fumbles.
But despite the solid production in 2012, and throughout his four-year career in Tampa Bay that saw him produce 15 sacks and four forced fumble – most of which occurred over the past two seasons – the Bucs appear set to let Bennett test the free agent waters. Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik has spoken about the team’s confidence in 2011 second-round pick, Da’Quan Bowers, as a candidate to replace Bennett as the team’s starting left defensive end.
Bennett has made no secret of the fact that he would love to remain a Buccaneer, and even said on a radio appearance on 98.7 The Fan that he would like to give Tampa Bay the chance to match any offer he receives. That was reported on Monday on ProFootballTalk.com and was quickly refuted by a source – likely by Bennett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus – who said that the Bucs would not be given the right to match.
PewterReport.com spoke to Bennett on Monday for clarification on his stance regarding allowing the Bucs to match any offer he receives.
“They have time to do it right now,” Bennett said. “If they do it right now it would be good. If they don’t, they don’t. I can only wait for so long.
“I understand it’s a business, so I’m not worried about when they come to the table or if they do. I know it’s a business and they have to do what they have to do.”
Bennett, 27, said that multiple teams have shown interest in his services.
“I feel real comfortable about tomorrow,” Bennett said. “I’m excited about tomorrow and to see what unfolds. It’s going to be a good day tomorrow.”
The Bucs’ thinking is that re-signing Bennett would essentially force him into Tampa Bay’s starting lineup due to his high salary and not give Bowers the opportunity to get more playing time and develop. Bowers was once regarded as the potential top pick in 2011 due to offseason knee surgery prior to the draft, which caused his stock to fall. He had 1.5 sacks during his rookie season before notching three more QB captures in 2012 after missing the first six games of the season as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon.
Bennett went on to say that he is still hopeful that he and his brother, Martellus, who played tight end for the New York Giants in 2012, can reunite and play together as they did in college at Texas A&M. But he understands that Martellus, who will also be an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, has his own contract situation to sort out and realizes that the chances of them going to the same team in free agency seems remote. Interestingly enough, the Bucs have a need for a starting tight end as last year’s starter, Dallas Clark, is an unrestricted free agent and may not return to the team.
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