While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have an amazing pass rush a season ago, there is a possibility that their leading sacker from 2012 may not be back in pewter and red. Defensive end Michael Bennett is an unrestricted free agent and the Bucs have not re-signed him as of yet.
The 6-foot-4, 271-pound Bennett was the team's best defensive end last year and really stepped up his play after fellow defensive end Adrian Clayborn was lost for the season. He finished the season with 41 tackles, 9.0 sacks, and four forced fumbles.
Bennett is still young (27) and appears to be just hitting his prime. He plays the run exceedingly well in addition to being a solid pass rusher off the edge. Bennett is a guy the Bucs should want around as they try to re-build the team into a winner again.
The good news is there is still plenty of time between now and when free agency starts on March 12 for the Bucs and Bennett to come to terms if the team wants him around for the long haul.
The bad news is that Bennett looks like he wants to see just how much he is worth in free agency given the fact that he is one of the best defensive ends on the market.
Of course, Tampa Bay could decide to use its franchise tag on Bennett to keep him off the market and see if he can replicate the kind of success that he had last season before deciding whether or not to hand over a large chunk of cash. If they do that, it could cost the Bucs, who have around $30 million in cap space right now, somewhere around $9 to $11 million depending on which tag they use on him.
Whatever happens, Bennett is going to get a lot of money. We'll have to wait and see whether or not it will be the Bucs that give it to him.
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