The Seahawks traded defensive end Michael Bennett and a 2018 seventh-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles Wednesday in exchange for receiver Marcus Johnson and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick. The deal ends a five-year run in Seattle for Bennett, a player who was not only Seattle's most productive defensive linemen during that time, but also one of the team's most interesting personalities.
Bennett, who former teammate Red Bryant once described as a Renaissance man, was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks, but to simply describe him as a football player would be selling him short. Bennett was not just a game-wrecking pass rusher, but also a dedicated family man, a philanthropist, an activist, a comedian, an author, and occasionally after a big play, an overly enthusiastic dancer.
"I think everything is about more than football," Bennett said last summer from his offseason home in Honolulu. "As an athlete, you want to be able to transcend sports. Not just be relevant in your sport, but be relevant in things that matter outside of sports. To be able to talk to kids about life, school, community, health. I want to empower young athletes to use their platform."
And transcend Bennett did. Bennett, who began his career with a brief stint with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2009 before establishing himself during four seasons in Tampa Bay, returned to Seattle as a free agent in 2013, signing a day after Cliff Avril. Those two helped turn an already good defense into a historically dominant unit that helped Seattle win its first Super Bowl. But while Bennett developed into being one of the league's most respected and feared pass-rushers during his time in Seattle—49ers tackle Joe Staley once described Bennett as “probably the top defensive end in the NFL” —he also spent that time living up to Bryant's "Renaissance man" nickname.
Now, after five memorable seasons that included that Super Bowl XLVIII victory, 39 sacks and three trips to the Pro Bowl, Bennett is off to Philadelphia.
Johnson, 23, gives the Seahawks a speedy young receiver to add to the competition at a position group that could lose players in free agency. Undrafted out of Texas in 2016, Johnson spent most of his first season on Philadelphia's practice squad, then made the 53-man roster out of camp in 2017, appearing in 10 games with five catches for 45 yards.
Bennett's tenure in Seattle will be remembered not just for big plays on defense, but also for indelible moments like his impromptu bike ride around CenturyLink Field on a commandeered Seattle Police officer's bike following an improbable NFC championship game victory over the Packers, and for his numerous zingers in press conferences, and most notably, for his considerable work in the community. The Seahawks' 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award nominee, Bennett has used his platform to help people around the world, from Hawaii to South Dakota to Haiti to Africa to here in the Pacific Northwest. Bennett has also found the time to help write and publish a children’s book with his wife, Pele, and their three daughters, and he has another book, "Things That Make White People Uncomfortable" coming out next month.
"I think I've lived the Nina Simone song Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood,'" Bennett said last summer. "… I'm just a different type of person. Big Red always called me the Renaissance man because I'm always into different things—music, what I read, how I'm always trying to evolve as a person. I never stay the same, and I think sometimes that gets misunderstood with me."
Bennett's evolution as a person will now continue in Philadelphia, but he'll always be an important part of the most successful era in team history.
"Michael was a foundational block of our success," the Seahawks said in a statement. "We appreciate the energy and passion with which he played and the leadership he brought on game day. We will always be grateful for his fun-loving spirit that endeared him to 12s, and for his commitment to our community."
Take a look back at some of the best photos of defensive end Michael Bennett during his five NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.