One of the Seahawks’ biggest names and voices is leaving Seattle.
Is Richard Sherman next?
The team remained silent Wednesday after Michael Bennett confirmed on Twitter the Seahawks had indeed traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles, after five of the best years in franchise history, three Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls and the franchise's first NFL championship.
He didn’t seem exactly devastated by the move.
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Hours later, the often-controversial defensive end said his online goodbye to Seattle. Bennett used his Instagram account to thank the Seahawks, their fans and the people of the Puget Sound region for being “world class” and “helping to build bridges across our communities.”
ESPN reported the Seahawks are trading three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher and a seventh-round draft choice to the Eagles for wide receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.
The Bennett news broke about an hour after Seahawks teammates began using their social-media account to react to what they inferred was three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman saying goodbye.
The team had no immediate comment on Sherman’s situation, the Bennett news--or a report from the league-owned NFL Network that Sherman was to meet later Wednesday with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to discuss his future.
But the where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire principle began to apply as Wednesday continued.
It appears Schneider’s statement Friday at the NFL scouting combine that no Seahawks player was untouchable in trade talks may be true.
Another report from ESPN said Sherman, a member of the executive council of the league’s players’ union for years, was on his way to Las Vegas for meetings with the NFL Players’ Association.
Sherman is his own agent, representing himself entering the final year of his Seahawks contract. So any dealing the Seahawks are doing about Sherman are directly with their superstar himself.
The team can save $11 million against the 2018 salary cap by trading or releasing Sherman before June 1. And coming off a torn Achilles in November and then a second surgery on his other Achilles and ankle recently, his trade value has never been lower.
Bennett has yet to play a game under the three-year contract extension the Seahawks gave him for $29.5 million through the 2020 season in December 2016. That got him $17.5 million in guarantees up front while he could still command them. If the report from Wednesday is true of a trade the Eagles will now pick up that contract, plus a seventh-round pick from Seattle in exchange for Philadelphia sending a choice at the end of the fifth round.
Johnson, 23, may fit most immediately as a speedy option on special teams. The undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2016 has run the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds.
Johnson confirmed he’s heading to Seattle on--what else?--Twitter. He posted: “GOD'S PLAN & TIMING IS PERFECT @Eagles thank you for EVERYTHING, nothing but LOVE Philly!! @Seahawks y'all will get the GREATEST version of ME! #GODSPEED #ANYWAY”
But that’s not at all the news here, of course.
The Seahawks, tight against the salary cap already still one week from free agency starting, can save $2.2 million against this year’s cap by trading or releasing Bennett. The 32-year-old pass rusher played through three injuries last season yet had 8 1/2 sacks and 24 quarterback hits before playing in his third Pro Bowl in January.
Only two players in the NFL have more hits on quarterbacks the last five seasons than Bennett’s (118): Houston’s J.J. Watt (157) and Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap (135). Bennett has one more QB hit than Von Miller, Denver’s three-time All-Pro and Super Bowl 50 MVP two seasons ago.
Bennett’s departure leaves a void in pass rushers, a commodity Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loves to stockpile. Bennett’s good friend, fellow Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril, may never play again following neck surgery. Dion Jordan is a restricted free agent Seattle needs to tender a contract offer to keep for 2018. Miami’s former first-round pick has played in just five games the last three seasons.
The only other proven pass rusher the Seahawks currently have is Frank Clark—and the defensive end’s rookie contract ends after this year.
Bennett told me at the end of last season, on New Year’s Eve, “I probably won’t be back” with Seattle in 2018.
"Just seems like it's a young man's game. I can see them going younger, with younger players,” Bennett told The News Tribune Dec. 31. “That's part of the game."
Bennett played through a torn plantar-fascia in his foot and a swollen knee, on top of a grotesquely bent toe that’s bothered him for years.
He’s been sensing a youth movement was coming on the transitioning Seahawks.
Signs Wednesday were that movement had arrived.
Bennett’s and Sherman’s teammates seemed taken aback.
“Bruh.. ,” running back Mike Davis posted on his Twitter feed, “what is going on today ??”
Asked on NFL Network Wednesday about Seattle’s big changes to its core on defense, Avril said: “I didn’t think it was going to be this dramatic.”