Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett endeared himself to fans by commandeering a police bicycle and riding it around CenturyLink Field after the team’s dramatic win in the NFC championship game last year. He made headlines again this week, saying he’s not happy with his contract.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel agrees Bennett is not getting paid what he’s worth. But he says that’s not going to change.
The NFL and its players union are working under a collective bargaining agreement that allows for free agency and salary caps. The NFL's salary cap is universal for all teams. It's $151 million this year.
"When a team is successful like the Seahawks have been, their players deserve more reward — upgraded contracts," Thiel said.
"But the team can't afford to pay them all market value. So, what happens is they have to say goodbye to players like Golden Tate a couple of years ago and, more recently, Bruce Irvin who went to Oakland. They can't keep everybody under the salary cap.
"On top of that, there is a team policy with the Seahawks - and it's an identical one to every other team in the league - in which they will not renegotiate a contract prior to its final year.
"Michael Bennett signed a $28 million contract two years ago. It has two years to run. So, he is not entitled to a renegotiation until after this season," Thiel said.
Thiel pointed out that Bennett found success later in his career.
"Bennett is a late bloomer. He didn't get his full starting season until he was age 26 in Tampa Bay. He's been a starter here two years and made his first Pro Bowl last year.
"He'll be 31 in November. And that's a little old for NFL players getting contract extensions. It's not impossible. They do it all the time, certainly quarterbacks do, but in the collision positions, such as defensive end, it's harder to last longer in the league.
"Michael is really kind of stuck in this situation where his peak years have come later in his career. And the problem is he has almost no leverage," Thiel said.
'Worth More Than He's Paid'
"He said he's going to show up to training camp, which is good for him, the team and the fans. There's not going to be a holdout. But there is going to be some lamentation on his part.
"I don't see the Seahawks doing anything [special] for him. They didn't do it for the other players; they really can't do it for Bennett, even though I think he's one of the top five defensive ends in the league.
"He's getting paid probably about twentieth out of, say, 64 starting defensive ends.
"That's not nearly the salary deserves, but it's what he's stuck with given the rules that he and his union have agreed to with the NFL."