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March 15, 2013 @ 12:10 am
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Bucs Made A Big Mistake By Letting Bennett Go

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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The Buccaneers' pass rush just got worse by letting defensive end Michael Bennett, the team's leading sacker in 2012, go in free agency. Bennett signed a one-year, $5-million contract with Seattle, a rising power in the NFC and a potential Super Bowl contender.
Remember March 14, 2013. It’s the day the Bucs’ woeful pass rush actually got worse.

It’s the day the team’s leading sacker, right defensive end Michael Bennett, was allowed to leave in free agency and sign a one-year, $5 million contract with Seattle.

Bennett wasn’t worth $5 million to Tampa Bay?


Bucs general manager Mark Dominik gave overrated receiver Michael Clayton $6 million in 2009. He caught a career-low 16 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown before being released prior to the 2010 season.

With just over $20 million in salary cap room left in 2013 Dominik couldn’t spare $5 million to keep the team’s best pass rusher?

Dominik also gave running back Derrick Ward, a bum, $5 million in 2009. He rushed for 409 yards and one touchdown, while averaging 3.6 yards, in addition to catching 20 passes for 150 yards and two more scores before being cut after just one season in Tampa Bay.

Clayton and Ward were fat-cat players who played football for the paychecks. Bennett, who led the team with a career-best nine sacks in 2012, plays football for the love of the game and it shows in his performance.

Last offseason, Dominik doled out $7.75 million for troublesome cornerback Eric Wright, who produced just one interception. Dominik will say that after Wright didn’t fulfill the amount of workouts to earn his $250,000 workout bonus, and missed four game checks due to his suspension for Adderall the team was actually on the hook for just over $5 million last year.

That’s fine, but $5 million is still $5 million. And $5 million would have kept Bennett in Tampa Bay for another season.

I spoke with Bennett on Thursday night and he was baffled as I was as to why the Bucs weren’t more interested in keeping him. He wanted to stay in Tampa Bay and play alongside defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller – players Bennett knew from back in his days in the Big 12 playing for Texas A&M.

But when that looked it wasn’t going to happen, Bennett had to do what was best for his career. He opted to go to a Super Bowl contender in Seattle and join the legion of pass rushers that now includes Bruce Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2012, last year’s leading sacker Chris Clemons, and newly signed Cliff Avril. Including Bennett’s nine sacks and three forced fumbles, that foursome produced 38 sacks and caused 10 fumbles last year.

By comparison, Tampa Bay’s entire defense recorded just 27 sacks and forced fumbles last year.

As I understand it, the Bucs’ rationale for being cool on Bennett is the fact that he is undersized at 6-foot-4, 274 pounds and gets banged up from being tossed about by bigger right tackles. Yet Bennett wound up playing in all 16 games. Keep in mind that Seattle’s Clemons is 6-foot-3, 254 pounds and that didn’t stop him from getting to opposing quarterbacks 11.5 times.

The Bucs are also concerned that Bennett might be an overachiever. After all, Stylez G. White, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound pass rushing defensive end, recorded a team-leading eight sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2007. His 2007 season was similar to that of Bennett’s 2012 campaign.

But White followed that up with only five sacks and a forced fumble the next year. White never reached his 2007 numbers again, finishing his career with another 11 sacks and two forced fumbles from 2009-10. When White became a free agent after the 2010 season, the Bucs let him walk away.

However, Bennett is a much better player than White was, and to compare Bennett’s game to White’s would be a mistake for the Bucs’ front office. While White abhorred playing the run, Bennett was Tampa Bay’s leading tackler among defensive linemen with 34 tackles, and his 18 tackles for loss were the second-most on the team.

In a contract year in 2012 after being tendered an offer over $2 million with a first-round draft pick as compensation, Bennett more than doubled his production from the previous season that saw him post four sacks and a forced fumble in 2011. He’s a very good player, and one that Dominik should not have let go of.

By parting ways with Bennett, what Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano are thinking is that third-year defensive end, Da’Quan Bowers, can match Bennett’s production for about one-fifth of the price. Bowers, the team’s second-round pick in 2011, will earn $725,512 as a base salary this year.

Bowers, who is slated to step in and start at left defensive end in 2013, recorded a personal-best three sacks and five tackles for loss as a situational pass rusher over the last 10 games of 2012 after missing the first six games as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason. Bowers has just 4.5 sacks in his two-year NFL career.

In the end, Dominik may be right. This year, Bowers may be ready to be just as productive as Bennett was last year. But where the Bucs should be concerned is the lack of depth and proven pass rushers at the defensive end position.

Adrian Clayborn, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011, recorded 7.5 sacks to lead the team as a rookie, but didn’t record a QB takedown in the first three games of 2012 before a knee injury ended his second season prematurely. Clayborn, the team’s starting right defensive end, is expected to be ready for the start of the 2013 campaign, but will be able to return with 100 percent effectiveness?

Behind Bowers and Clayborn is fourth-year defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who notched a career-high four sacks and eight tackles for loss. But combine the career sacks of all three players and the total is just 17 sacks. Bennett alone has 15 sacks in his career.

Tampa Bay will likely draft another defensive end in the first or second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, such as BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah or SMU’s Margus Hunt, to help provide depth now that Bennett is gone. What would have been better would have been to keep Bennett for one more year – at say, $5 million – and let Bowers and the rookie develop, and ensure that Clayborn is back to his optimum playing ability in 2013.

Why have the New York Giants won more Super Bowls over the past five years than any other team? Because they keep drafting pass rushers.

Back in the day, the Giants had Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Then they drafted Justin Tuck and then Mathias Kiwanuka. When Strahan retired, they added Justin Pierre-Paul and didn’t miss a beat from a pass-rushing perspective because they still have five solid and versatile edge rushers.

The Bucs’ stable of pass rushers isn’t even close to that of the Giants’. By losing Bennett, it’s gotten worse. This team should be adding pass rushers – not losing them. Unless Tampa Bay makes a play for either aging, but experienced John Abraham or Dwight Freeney to be used as a situational pass rusher, losing Bennett will be a big blow to the Bucs.

There are two ways to create more sacks. Get better pass rushers that can get to the quarterback before he can get the ball off, or get cornerbacks that can cover wide receivers so that quarterbacks have to hold on to the ball longer. Great pass rushing teams have both, but in 2012, Tampa Bay had neither.

The team has yet to sign a cornerback to improve the worst secondary in the NFL. Buccaneers cornerbacks only accounted for only nine out of the team’s 18 interceptions, and the sub-par play at the position accounted for many of the team’s over 4,000 yards surrendered through the air in 2012.

Unless the Bucs trade for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is coming off a torn ACL, and he winds up being healthy and in Pro Bowl form this season, Tampa Bay can’t count on its cornerbacks to help its pass rush. The Bucs had a chance to do that by re-signing Bennett for a reasonable $5 million, but failed to do so.
Last modified on Friday, 15 March 2013 07:31

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  • avatar

    5 Million for Bennett would have been just fine. This year I think Dom is screwing up. Revis is too overpriced. The other CB are gone. Miller is gone. Bowers has not proven a thing. If he could have taken the 1st team snaps we wouldn't be talking about Bennett right now. Last year was a good FA. This year not so good. You have to look at depth too when you evaluate our team.
  • avatar

    Macabee nailed it. There's more here than meets the eye. We won't ever know, but let's not be fools. Dominick knows he has to win this year and so does Schiano, and Dominick has done a good job managing the salary cap up to now--though I'm sure others will disagree. He got the best receiver and best offensive lineman out there last year, and the best safety this year--and he's trying his damnest to get an All Pro cornerback. Anybody who thinks this year's class of available cornerbacks in Free agency was anything more than mediocre is fooling themselves. Besides, Bennett is no Hall of Fame defensive end. He's no body to lose your lunch over. If Bowers hadn't gotten hurt in the Spring, he wouldn't even have started. The fact is that Schiano's fingerprints are all over these moves. A new coach wants his guys and neither Miller nor Bennett are his guys. You can agree or disagree, but that's just the way it is. A coach builds a team in his image. He's also dumped Benn and Black--hurray for those moves. Thus far in his career, Dominick has shown a predisposition toward splash signings. If the next week or two goes by and we don't see any movement, then I'll join the chorus of booing critics, but for now I'm talking a wait and see look.
  • avatar

    I am in total agreement with "Buddah", a lot will happen between now and opening day. We need to let Managers manage and Coaches coach until then, be patient and a little more positive. OM & out.
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  • avatar

    start being a Cowboys fan. They suit you better
  • avatar

    I have razor blades. Each person just take one so there are enough to go around. And try not to bleed on the carpet.
  • avatar

    Look Dominick will try to get Revis and either way, the rest of the numerous holes will be filled through the draft and with training camp cast offs, SOP for him. He is not going to overspend in his mind for talent he can replace for less later. On the defensive side you can plug a nose tackle etc. in late in camp and he will be fine.
  • avatar

    Not sure about the "plug the NT etc" part....I sadly recall the 2011 season with teams running amock on us (didn't we give up over 200 yards rushing per game) because our DTs were awful - no McCoy and a bunch of "plug-in" guys that got run over play after play (Frank Okam, Ryan Sims, etc etc)...I think DT is very important to us (both of them)...McCoy needs a partner who at the very least can not get run over every play....
  • avatar

    Yeah, I gotta say the Bennett loss is bad. Not that he is the best End in the league or even in our Division but he was the best Lineman we had. Now we are stuck with McCoy and a few guys who are at best fill ins. We have let the best Cornerbacks in the Free Agency get snapped up, and we are looking for the scraps now. At least we got a good Safety. Maybe Barber can go back to playing Corner.
  • avatar

    Feels like we've let this free agency period get away from us. I like the Goldson signing although deal feels rich. Not getting a Sean Smith or other solid vet corner is a mistake. Bennet and Bowers competing for starting role and then providing depth would have been a great plan. We have a lot of holes to trade draft picks and pay big $$$ for Revis - he was great two years ago, but now??? Best players have now been signed and we do not have a starting CB and have a weakened D-line. This is a strong defensive player draft, better plan on hitting on all 8 picks.....
  • avatar

    Scott, take it easy, it's not like we lost Warren Sapp. Why do you think he only got one year for 5M? Hell, Paul Kruger got $40M. I just don't think Mr. Bennett was in the Bucs long term plans. Maybe our GM is learning from his past mistakes, I sure hope so because there have been enough of them as you've accurately pointed out. Let's just see how this shakes out in September. I wish Mr. Bennett well in Seattle and thank him for all of his contributions to the Buccaneers.
  • avatar

    There was a time when Bowers was projected as the #1 overall pick. He fell because of concerns over his knee, which so far, haven't been substantiated. So let's have some faith in our front office that they know what they've got. As for other moves, I'd try to sign Abraham on the cheap to a 2-year deal, draft the best DT (maybe UF's Floyd) to replace Miller (but still try to keep Miller for depth if the price is right) and then attempt to to trade back into the bottom of the 1st round to take the best CB available (Trufant, Banks, Rhodes). I think this is a very realistic course of action and addresses many concerns.
  • avatar

    The only way we get Floyd is if we trade up - way up.....he's going top-5. We're more likely to reach at 13 and draft Rhodes, and then draft some too-slow/poor motor DL in round 2 that Dom claims is the replacement for our DL issue....We'll end up seeing soemone like Biggers or Gorrer on the field a lot and Gary Gibson as a starter....I agree it's not the end of the world here, but the problems we had were so very easily addressable this offseason and instead we have just another mess on our hands....
  • avatar

    The Bennett signing is a head-scratcher. I’ve thought about this overnight and it sounds like the proverbial “I went to a wedding and a fight broke out”. This has the fingerprint of some Rosenhaus sleaze and some Schiano stubbornness. Make no mistake about it the Bennett/ Buc negotiation did not start at 5mil a year with Rosehaus in the room. It appears that both walked away from that first meeting with an agreement for Bennett to test the market and the Bucs to have first right of refusal. When Bennett publicly admitted that, Rosenhaus quickly did an about face and denied such an agreement. Shiano is the wrong guy to break a commitment with. My opinion, and it's only that because I have no facts here - that is where things started to get personal and one thing after another started to go downhill. Believe me, the reasonable mind cannot rationalize 3mil a year for a Casillas and not 5mil for a Bennett, regardless of their plans for Bowers. Bennett’s out of the blue 1 year deal with Seattle smacks of a rejected woman going to bed with the first good-looking guy at the bar after a break-up and the Bucs refusal to pursue Bennett after the market softened is a classic “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last woman on earth”. It is too easy to dismiss this as the Bucs deciding to move on and Bennett wanting to play for a contender. Something went wrong here and nobody had the presence of mind to reel it in before the damage was done! This is not the end of the world, but there was no reason to go near the edge either!
  • avatar

    Also, I'm so sick of the Giants example from everywhere as to why you can't have enough pass rushers and every team needs 8 of them. How about our Bucs? We didn't win with 4 pass rushing DE's. We won with 2.5 real pass rushers. Rice, Sapp and Spires was the 0.5 pass rusher. Booger wasn't a good rusher and neither were our LB's. What about the Pats 3 wins. Never more than 2 good pass rushers on the team at a time. The Colts...Freeney and Mathis. Saints? Maybe one if you count Will Smith. Ravens this year? Kruger. Suggs and Ngata were hurt and didn't do crap when they got back. My point is there are so many ways to win a Super Bowl. You can do it with a great secondary like the Saints had (ours wasn't too bad in 2002 either) or great QB play. A combination of several areas is generally the best way to ensure a SB victory.
  • avatar

    No, the Bucs made a mistake when they let Talib go and Dominik is busy right now trying to correct that mistake by signing veteran CB's. That's because Talib was a special football player. SR, Bennett is not a special football player. He's just plain old not. I believe our pass rush just got better on the first two downs. Instead of Clayborn and Bennett you now have Clayborn and Bowers who is better. We'll have have to wait until the offseason is over to see what they do on third down.
  • avatar

    But pinkstob, he hasn't signed vetran CBs...he hasn't signed any corners...all he's done is take away the only DL depth we had - with no Bennett (and I agreed we needed to let him walk for the $10m that was being touted at the time - but $5m?) and no Miller....and at #13 in the draft there's no DL that's going to be better than those two guys at giving us depth..the best value (of ocurse this all remains to be seen) from mocks seems to be FS, WR, LB...nothing we need....no RT, no DE, no DT, no CB...unless we reach for one of those positions and then we end up with a guy we need to be a stud, who just isn't...
  • avatar

    I will also note that an under the radar corner that has yet to sign is Mike Jenkins. This addition would probably come with little publicity but could prove to be a very solid pickup. Make Revis the focus, slide in and steal Jenkins for 2 yrs 8 mill and we have 2 starters and then it frees up the draft to take BPA. The world is not over and there are plenty of options at our disposal but the key is landing Revis.
  • avatar

    WHAT THE HELL!!! You have to hope that Dominik has some sort of plan,but not signing Bennett and waiting till all the good CB'S are gone seems like a horrible plan.Putting all your eggs in one basket and waiting to give up to much for a money hungry Revis is risky at best.The Jets now have the big end of the stick because they see that the best corners are all gone and we have NONE of them.I still have faith in Dominik but last nights news of not signing Bennett felt like i swallowed a watermelon whole!
  • avatar

    Guys - we had a fine DL last year - remember #1 rush defense - our problem with the pass defense was clearly the high school players we were lining-up in the secondary....Demarcus Ware would not have got more than 8 sacks on our 2012 defense....Bennett and Miller were just fine, especially for $5m...yes if we had all the salary cap sapce in teh world and the #1 pick in the draft we could let them go and replace them with upgrades....but we don't. This was a huge mistake! There is no player in the draft that we can get at #13 who is going to make our DL better than #1 rush defense...all Dom is doing is to imporve on the high school secondary (but not enough, we're still going to line up one of those guys from last year plus a rookie (and not a good rookie)) while taking our DL backwards....Clayborn was awful last year when he played (I hope that was a sophmore slump - but he was awful), Bowers has lots of potential but he may be in jail or suspended, Gibson at NT (yuk), and McCoy is now going to get triple teamed on every play (and watch the fan base turn on him next year).....All Dom needed to do was upgrade the secondary (all of it) - it wasn't that hard to do - and instead, IF he gets Revis, he will upgrade some of the secondary and downgrade the DL....
  • avatar

    The fact that Bennett got a one year deal for 5 million is very telling. All the posters saying Dominik screwed up are also apparently smarter than every other GM in the league. I think Dom has earned the opportunity to let this play out and see what he has in mind. If at the end of the process we do not have all bases adequately covered - skewer away. Its way too early to do that now.
  • avatar

    Bennett is not a starting DE in this league and his contract shows that. We can get a solid DE (Hunt) in the draft and replace his role as a situation pass rusher, we need Bowers and Clayborn healthy more than we needed Bennett back. CB is a completely different story, Grimes needs to be on board here shortly and the Revis deal needs to get done so we can move on to other issues like depth along the DL and LBs.
  • avatar

    I just hope " The Dom" has a plan for the DL. We need a great DT and I hope Bowers can become the DE we need. I real like Sylvester Williams DT from North Carolina.
  • avatar

    Time will only tell if this was the right move. Yes it's a gamble and they probably could (or should) have kept him. Let's keep in mind that we don't know what their plan is for this team. We all are speculating just like the media. I suspect Revis will happen and in the draft we target DE and CB early. We're not done making moves...let's watch and see what happens.
  • avatar

    You can't move forward and improve the defensive line by using the same players as in the past. What, were we all hoping that we would line up with Bennett / McCoy / Miller / Clayborne and that our sack numbers would skyrocket in 2013? That combination did not work (yes, I know AC was hurt in '12), so it is time to move on. Just by paying a guy more (Bennett & Miller) doesn't make them play better. Our only chance to get better is to get better players in - via draft / FA / trade, as we already know what we'll get with the status quo. I am all on board with the Bucs brass on this one, as long as their master plan comes to fruition. Let's judge after the draft & FA. Bo Bucs!
  • avatar

    What a huge disappointment this has been.....Dominik HAS to GO...PERIOD!!!!
  • avatar

    Dom was right to not over pay for Bennett. I think he took the 0ne year deal with Seattle out of desperation, his phone wasn't ringing. It wasn't about the 5 mil, it was about making Bowers a full time starter,a 2nd round pick who needs to play, and pan out. We'll draft a D end, and pick up an Abraham, or Osi, so all, and all I'd say this is no great loss.
  • avatar

    This is reminiscent of Dewayne White being allowed to depart. Had a decent year before hitting free agency and did little for the Lions before soon falling completely out of the league. Remember, Seattle already cut Bennett once. Much ado about nothing. Let's see what Bowers and Claiborne can do.
  • avatar

    IMO, the Glazers try to due the right thing and they are being duped by a GM that is trying to build a team from the scrap heap. To let Bennett walk is why we never have any depth !
  • avatar

    I"m so tired of being a Buc fan and watching them screw players and fans ! If they start the season with Biggers and the rest of that Sec. that will be it for me after twenty years of being a season ticket holder.
  • avatar

    We had the number 1 rush defense last year so Lets let Bennett and Miller go so our pass defense And rush defense match. WTH Dom!
  • avatar

    Hopefully Bowers Mccoy, and Clayborn will have great seasons or at least complete their seasons. Dominik's job may depend on it. CB's needed now. I would rather the Bucs take Grimes or Asomugh than Revis if they have to give up anything substantial. We received a 4th rounder for a player in his prime in the last year of his agreement with Talib. I think a 3rd and NE's 4th is fair compensation for Revis.
  • avatar

    BucWild, that's one of the funniest things I've ever heard. You suggesting that the difference in value between Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib almost made me choke on my orange juice. That's just ridiculous, lol. Seriously. Are you aware that Revis grades out as the best CB of his generation and one of the best of all time? No? Oh.....well, anyways, idk what exactly the most fair price is, but it's certainly higher than that. Something like one 1st and two middle round picks or one 1st, one middle round, a 7th rounder, and Legarrette Blount. There's a solid argument to be made that he's actually worth 2 first round picks, although I don't think we should be open to paying that price.
  • avatar

    Scott, I guess this story makes you a troll too. This was a pathetic effort by our front office. No other way to spin it.
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