By the end of 2011, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had developed a formidable defensive end rotation that coaches hope will be a reason the defense shows dramatic improvement in 2012.
A big part of that defensive end unit was Michael Bennett, who now will be officially be a part of it after signing his restricted free agent tender today.
The Bucs had placed a first-round tender on Bennett, essentially protecting the team with first-round pick compensation from any team that signed him to a competing contract. That, and the $2.7 million salary that accompanies the decision, was a strong indication of the Bucs' feelings for Bennett.
Bennett, 26, had a breakout season in 2011 playing mostly left defensive end. He registered four sacks in 14 games (10 starts), but was among the defense's most consistent players during one of the franchise's worst defensive seasons. His ability to play both the run and pass is valued by coaches, as is his flexibility. Bennett has played extensively at defensive tackle on passing downs, despite being just 274 pounds.
With Bennett, the Bucs are likely to use a defensive end rotation that also includes 2011 rookies Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.