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Analyst: Seahawks won’t break the bank for Bennett

Michael Bennett was the Seahawks’ best pass rusher in 2013, but will he be too expensive to re-sign? (AP)

By Brady Henderson

Evan Silva of Rotoworld joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” on Thursday for a conversation that included his thoughts on the limits to which the Seahawks will go to re-sign defensive lineman Michael Bennett and a potential alternative if they don’t.

Below are Silva’s thoughts on each subject followed by mine.

Silva’s give: The Seahawks likely won’t break the bank for Bennett given a) their relatively tight budget and what could be a steep cost to re-sign him, b) the depth of this year’s class of free-agent defensive linemen and c) general manager John Schneider’s track record of finding bargains in free agency. The market for Bennett and other pass rushers should be soft, just like it was last year when Bennett signed a one-year, $4.8 million deal with Seattle.

“I think the same thing is going to happen because if you look at the defensive ends, if you look at the defensive tackles, these positions are loaded in free agency,” Silva said. “Why would a team go out and pay huge money to Michael Bennett when they can get a younger Everson Griffen for two years and $7.5 million while Michael Bennett’s out there telling everybody he wants $10 million a year?”

Henderson’s take: The Seahawks are already over the projected 2014 salary cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and have other key players who are either free agents or eligible for new contracts. That makes it hard to imagine them giving Bennett a deal worth $10 million per season, as good as he was while helping Seattle win the Super Bowl. And while Bennett has said he won’t give Seattle a discount in what could be his best and final shot to cash in, it’s also hard to imagine him realistically expecting that much money from any team. According to the website, only 10 defensive linemen are making an average of at least $10 million per year, and most of those deals were signed before the market went south last offseason.

Schneider has proven to be particularly shrewd when it comes to finding value via trade, the draft or free agency. The best example of the latter would be last year when Seattle got 16.5 regular-season sacks out of Bennett and Cliff Avril, whose average salaries were a combined $11.3 million. And the Seahawks shouldn’t have a hard time convincing pass rushers to come to Seattle, where the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field and the league’s best secondary makes it easier to get to the quarterback. That was part of the reason Bennett and Avril signed with the Seahawks, and the seasons they had should only reinforce Seattle’s appeal.

The Seahawks have obvious incentive to re-sign Bennett, who was a key member of the pass rush they had been searching for since Schneider and coach Pete Carroll arrived in 2010. They probably won’t break the bank for him, but they may not even have to.

Silva’s give: Everson Griffen, who has spent his first four seasons playing behind Jared Allen and Brian Robison in Minnesota, is a sleeper in this year’s crop of free-agent pass rushers and would make sense for the Seahawks should they not re-sign Bennett.

“This guy can play linebacker, he’s an explosive pass rusher, versatile, young,” Silva said of the 26-year-old Griffen. “And there’s not a whole lot of buzz on him right now. Now, that may pick up when the scouting combine comes next week, and that’s when the mingling starts and people start talking who’s going to go where, how much is this guy worth. Everson Griffen is a guy that I would keep in mind because he’s not one of the bigger names, but I think he could end up having the biggest impact on the defensive-end free-agent market, which is pretty loaded … I think he can have the best bang for his buck.”

Henderson’s take: If the Seahawks let Bennett walk in free agency, they would presumably try to find a player who can replicate his ability to play inside and outside. Listed at 6-feet-3 and 273 pounds, Griffen is nearly the same height and weight as Bennett. One question, though, is whether he has the quickness that allows Bennett to overcome the size he gives up when he slides inside and faces bigger interior offensive linemen.

Griffen played for Carroll at USC before he was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 by Minnesota. Such connections are worth noting when it comes to free agency, even though there is no guarantee a team would have any more interest in a player with which it has some familiarity.

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.