There are a lot of Tampa Bay fans out there wondering why the Buccaneers have yet to sign defensive end Michael Bennett to a new contract.
Maybe the answer has more to do with Bennett than it does with the Bucs. I’m pretty sure Tampa Bay already has made an offer (or at least talked about a general price tag) to Bennett. But their leading sacker from last year is in what might be a once-in-a-lifetime position.
He’s about to become a free agent and that means a shot at big money. It's probably wise for Bennett to see what his market value is. It could be astronomical for a guy who is a good all-around defensive end. Some teams could even look at Bennett and think there's still upside, and that’s why his market value could sky rocket when free agency opens next week.
According to my calculations, there are 16 defensive ends who average at least $7 million a season. Does Bennett deserve to be paid like one of the top 16? Probably not. I'm thinking Bennett should average $5 million or $6 million per year, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Some team might be willing to shell out $8 million to $10 million a year for Bennett. Maybe the Bucs aren’t willing to go that high, even though they’re $32 million under the salary cap. They also have Adrian Clayborn coming back from an injury, and Da'Quan Bowers has shown some promise when he’s been healthy. The Bucs likely want Bennett back, but maybe they don't view him as an absolute necessity.
The Bucs know what Bennett brings to the table and he could stay in Tampa Bay -- if the rest of the league isn’t ready to pay him elite money as a defensive end.