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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bennett re-ups with Bucs



Running back Michael Bennett didn't factor prominently in the couple months after his trade to the Bucs last season.

But perhaps he'll play a bigger role in the future now that he's signed a multi-year deal with the team.

Tampa Bay announced the signing this morning, the first notable personnel move of the offseason which prevents the veteran from becoming a free agent later this month. Bennett joined the Bucs in a trade-deadline deal with Kansas City in October but was used sparingly by Jon Gruden largely because of his limited knowledge of the playbook. The 5-9, 207-pound Bennett rushed just 41 times for 189 yards, averaging 4.6 yards -- the most of any of Tampa Bay's backs.

Given the Bucs' lack of depth in the backfield, this move arguably was necessary. Prior to this move, Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams were the only backs with experience under contract. Michael Pittman is a free agent and is on record saying he would like to explore his options. Williams isn't likely to be ready when the season starts after suffering a patellar tendon tear in September.

All that left Bennett in a pretty good spot, which is to say, the Bucs felt like they needed him. And without knowing the asking prices of the several free-agent running backs on the market, it would have been risky to enter the signing period with just one back they can count on.

The guess here is that Pittman's chances of being asked to return just got slimmer. Bennett is younger (he's 29, Pittman is 32), faster and in most cases, more explosive. You can argue that Pittman is a more well-rounded back when you factor in qualities like his hands, blocking ability and special-teams contributions. Still, it will be interesting to see what role is carved out for Bennett, who would be an interesting option on third downs in place of Pittman.

On a related topic, the Bucs began talks last week with Graham, whose agent is attempting to broker a long-term deal. Pay particular attention to the contract signed by Oakland running back Justin Fargas this week, a three-year, $12-million deal that will likely come up during Graham's negotiations. Not saying Graham will fetch that sort of money, but it's certainly worth arguing for.

Check back later and we'll hopefully have some comments from Bennett. Called him a little while ago but he was boarding a flight and didn't have time to chat. He promised to call back.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:57pm]


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