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Salk on Michael Bennett: ‘I can’t imagine him back next year’

Will the Seahawks part ways with Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett this offseason? (AP)

The shakeup on the Seahawks’ coaching staff is the first of many looming changes for Seattle this offseason, with additional turnover expected on the roster over the next couple of months.

Safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril, both staples of Seattle’s defense, are two players facing uncertain futures as they work to recover from neck injuries sustained in 2017. However, others could find themselves on the hot seat in an effort to get younger — and cheaper.

The Seahawks’ highest-graded player from PFF

Every day, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard and Mike Salk will take a deep dive into the situation surrounding each respective player. Today, they looked at defensive end Michael Bennett.

“His future may not be decided as quickly as the end of this week,” Salk said, in reference to the 2018 salary guarantees that kick in Friday Feb. 9 for a few Seahawks veterans, “but the more I think about Michael Bennett, I just can’t imagine him back next year.”

Salk’s prediction is driven, in part, by the salary implications of parting ways with Bennett, but it isn’t the only factor (the Seahawks have $5.2 million in dead money if they release Bennett this offseason, and save just $2.46 million in cap space – a comparatively small, though not entirely insignificant, amount).

The biggest reason, he said, has more to do with age: At 32, Bennett will be the second-oldest player on Seattle’s roster entering this season.

“It’s amazing how quickly things change,” Salk said. “Just a year or so ago, Bennett looked great. But he’s going to play this year and he’s going to turn 33 during this upcoming season. Maybe this is a year off, maybe it happens a year after this, but I ran a little comparison with somebody I thought played really deep into their career, and that’s Dwight Freeney.

“He’s the example of the guy who played well into his thirties and was successful late into his career. Dwight Freeney, but the time he turned 33, that was the year he left the Colts. So as much as you think about how long he’s played, he left the Colts at 33 and after that he had 18 sacks in five seasons.”

Bennett finished his season with 8.5 sacks and 25 tackles, and was named to his third-consecutive Pro Bowl. He also played through several injuries, including plantar fasciitis.

However, Salk questioned how long a dominant, disruptive performance in the pass rush can be sustainable with mounting injuries and age. And while he doesn’t believe Bennett will be on the roster in 2018, he’d like the Seahawks to find athletes in his mold – both personally and professionally.

“If that is the case, that’ll be a bummer,” Salk said. “I think it’s time, and I think business is business and it’s not personal. But it bums me out because he’s one of my favorites. Bennett and Avril, to me, are the guys who took this team from good to great. They show up in 2013 in that offseason and really take over this defense and amp it up to that next level that it needed to be in order to win that Super Bowl and get back to the next one.

“(Bennett) is what we should want for the most part in an athlete. He’s charitable, he’s a blast to watch on the field, he’s talkative and entertaining and honest with people when he speaks with them off the field, he’s played hurt, and he keeps it fun. And I would like more guys like Michael Bennett to populate my favorite teams. I just think it’s probably time for them to start moving on … but if and when they do, I’ll be bummed out because I’ve really enjoyed the Michael Bennett era and I think in many ways he embodies what we want from athletes.”