The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't taking any chances when it comes to restricted free agent defensive end Michael Bennett.
Bennett told the Tampa Bay Times the team has placed a first-round RFA tender on him, meaning it is protecting him with a tender that requires any team that signs him to surrender a first-round pick to the Bucs. That is very unlikely and almost never occurs. The Bucs, by tendering the contract, also retain the right to match any competing offer, making it less likely Bennett will leave.
Bennett, 26, had a breakout season playing mostly left defensive end. He registered four sacks in 14 games (10 starts), but was among the defense's most consistent players during a dreadful defensive season. 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.
Bennett will earn roughly $2.7 million if he signs the offer, something is not immediately required to do. He recently changed agents to Drew Rosenhaus and perhaps is seeking a long-term deal, but Bennett admitted the first-round tender pleased him.
"It's pretty cool to know they think highly of me," he said.
Bennett's role in 2012 is not entirely clear. After Bennett's groin injury, rookie Da'Quan Bowers took over the starting left defensive end role and seems likely to remain there. But Bennett, at minimum, will be used in a rotation and creates real competition for a defense that lacked that in 2011.