Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times has reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not re-sign Michael Bennett this offseason. They are already aware of his value to other teams, and do not believe the price tag they wish to pay meets what Bennett would need based on the league-wide interest in the defensive end. It had previously been rumored that Bennett would allow the Buccaneers the opportunity to match any deals he’s offered, but the gulf between Bennett’s value to other teams and his value to Tampa Bay is apparently quite large.
So what’s the plan going forward? The coaching staff and front office have both made it known that Da’Quan Bowers is the future of the franchise at defensive end, and despite his current uncertain legal situation thanks to previously reported gun charges, he’s already penciled in as the starter at defensive end across from Adrian Clayborn. The Buccaneers will likely need another defensive end in the mix, as Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Aaron Morgan are fine as depth players but shouldn’t be relied upon for any large amount of productive snaps.
Pro Football Talk has reported that it might be former Falcon defensive end John Abraham. One of the best pass rushers of this generation, Abraham is getting old and a bit frail, but could still provide some pass rush ability that no one else in the Bucs locker room can bring to the field. Abraham had 10 sacks and 38 hurries in 463 pass rushing opportunities in 2012, as charted by Pro Football Focus. He also knocked down 7 passes at the line of scrimmage. Compare these numbers to Bennett, who in 600 pass rushing opportunities, had 9 sacks and 48 hurries, with 2 passes batted down. If you compare the statistics on a per-snap basis, Abraham leaves Bennett in the dust.
The Buccaneers were interested in bringing in Abraham when he was last on the open market, so it’s no surprise they’re in touch with him again. Hopefully his visits to Tampa as a Falcon have been a nice tour of the facilities and area, and his familiarity with the team and the division serves as an advantage over other interested teams.
Pro Football Talk reports that the Saints are also interested in Abraham, so it gives extra incentive for the Buccaneers to offer a decent contract to Abraham to take him from the Falcons and keep him away from the Saints, swinging the balance of pass rush power in the NFC South in the process.