When the Seahawks opened training camp this summer, defensive end Michael Bennett declared, amidst speculation about his contract status, "I just want to be a Seahawk for the rest of my life. That's the most important thing."
Now Bennett's desire to finish his career with Seattle is a step closer to being reality, with Bennett signing a multi-year contract extension Friday. Under his previous contract, which he signed following the 2013 season, Bennett would have become a free agent after the 2017 season.
Bennett, 31, began his career in Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2009, then after being released early in his rookie season, he went to Tampa Bay, where over the next four seasons he established himself as a starter and a productive pass-rusher.
When the Seahawks were looking to upgrade their pass rush following the 2012 season, they signed Bennett and Cliff Avril in free agency on back-to-back days, and those two have gone on to become vital pieces of a Seattle defense that led the NFL in scoring defense for the past four seasons, including the Seahawks' Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2013.
Bennett, who has 29.5 sacks in four seasons with Seattle, has earned Pro Bowl honors each of the past two years, including last year when he had a career-high 10 sacks. While listed as a defensive end, Bennett's value comes in part from his ability to cause havoc from multiple positions along the defensive line. And while Bennett doesn't have the sack totals of some of the league's best-known pass-rushers, he is as well-respected by opponents as just about anyone in the league.
"If he's not the best defensive player in the league, I don't know who is," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters in New England last month before the Patriots hosted the Seahawks. "He's right up there at the top."
When Bennett was sidelined by a knee injury for five games earlier this season, then-Bills head coach Rex Ryan expressed relief that his team wouldn't have to face Bennett.
"That guy, he's one of the best players in the league, regardless of position," Ryan said on a conference call with Seattle-area media.
When some of Bennett's Pro-Bowl teammates were told last year that it was the defensive end's first Pro-Bowl honor, they were genuinely surprised by that news.
"This is his first one?" 49ers tackle Joe Staley said. "You mean like the first he came to, right?"
Told it was in fact Bennett's first time earning Pro-Bowl honors, not just his first appearance in the game itself, Staley continued, "No way. That's very surprising. I thought he just hadn't come because of Super Bowls… He's, in my opinion, probably the top defensive end in the NFL. He does so many different things, so he's hard to prepare for. It's hard to describe it too, it's kind of a slipperiness. It's hard to get your hands on him. He does a good job of controlling his body and fighting off blocks and taking away your game plan against him."
Added Packers guard Josh Sitton, "This is his first one? That's crazy. That's nuts. He's hard to block, man… He's one of those rare guys that's smaller than a normal guy who's going to play inside, but he has the power to do it. Most guys that size can't do that. He has the ability to use his hands, use power, or run around you, that's what makes him so good. He's extremely explosive off the ball. He's a hell of a player."
With Bennett locked up, the Seahawks now have several key players under contract through at least 2018, including Bennett, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, Jeremy Lane, Ahtyba Rubin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett and Frank Clark.
Back in July, Bennett said "everything will take care of itself" in regards to his contract situation. On Friday, that prediction came true, which is good news both for his future and for the Seahawks'.
Take a look back at some of the best photos of Michael Bennett as the Seahawks defensive end signs a multi-year contract extension with the club.