Free Agent Duel: Bennett vs. Tate

The Free Agents Duels series marches on, this time questioning which is a better keep for Seattle, Golden Tate or Michael Bennett.

| 3 years ago
2014-FA-Duels-bennett-tate

Free Agent Duel: Bennett vs. Tate


2014-FA-Duels-bennett-tateOur Free Agency coverage at PFF has started already, with Gordon McGuinness and Pete Damilatis giving you their thoughts on some potentially tough decisions facing teams around the league as we approach the start of the new league year. You’ve already seen them look at the conundrums facing the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos, but there are plenty more questions to be answered.

This time their focus turns to the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, who have eight players who played 450 or more snaps in 2013 listed as unrestricted free agents. That includes key contributors to the Super Bowl run like defensive end Michael Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate. What will the Seahawks’ top priority be, keeping a player who puts opposing quarterbacks on their back, or a receiver who makes life easier for their own signal caller?

The Case for Bennett
by Gordon McGuinness

2014-FA-Duels-inset-bennettThe Seahawks built the core of their Super Bowl winning team through some fantastic late round draft picks. With players like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor arriving via fifth round selections it freed up some extra money for them to make some luxury signings. That included bringing in Bennett on a one-year deal last year, after the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout failed to find a multi-year deal with concerns about rotator cuff injury scaring teams off. He became one of the best signings of the year, playing a key role in a Seahawks defense that steamrollered their way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

From 434 pass rushing snaps in the regular season and playoffs, Bennett produced 11 sacks, 17 hits and 47 hurries, good for a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 13.6 that was bettered only by Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake at defensive end in 2013. His best play came in the playoffs, where he had a PRP Rating of 14.5, with his most dominant performance coming in the Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints. Playing inside 19 of his 56 snaps at the left defensive tackle spot, he made light work of Saints right guard Jahri Evans, beating him for a sack and five hurries as a pass rusher, and getting past him to force a fumble from running back Mark Ingram.

That performance highlighted another aspect of Bennett’s importance, the fact that he can play so well both as an edge rusher and inside. Playing on the outside in the Seahawks’ base defense, and moving inside on obvious pass rushing downs, he saw 275 of his 759 snaps come at either nose or defensive tackle.

He was the second-highest graded player on a talented Seattle defensive line, and offers a versatility that the likes of Brandon Mebane simply don’t have. And even with a fairly stacked class of edge rushers this year, Bennett is still the best fit for the Seahawks. A blend of versatility and performance that’s tough to match, the Seahawks would be foolish to let him go after such an impressive year.

The Case Against Bennett
By Pete Damilatis

Let’s first get something out of the way: I have long been a huge Bennett fan. We trumpeted him as the best free agent edge defender last year, and I was flabbergasted when the rest of the league allowed the Seahawks to add him for a reasonable deal. I wasn’t surprised in the least when he stood out week after week, and he’s worth every dime he’ll get in his next contract. But that’s what will make it tough for the Seahawks to re-sign him.

The Seahawks have a huge advantage over the rest of the league with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas still earning bargain salaries on their rookie contracts. General Manager John Schneider played his hand brilliantly by using this leeway to add key championship pieces like Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Percy Harvin, but the window is closing. Early reports have the Seahawks and Bennett committed to re-signing, but it’s easy to be positive in the afterglow of a Super Bowl run. Reality often sets in weeks later when actual dollar figures are thrown around and egos are tested.

At 28 years old, this is Bennett’s last chance to cash in with a huge deal, and the Seahawks future commitments may not allow them to offer the long-term contract he desires. With just one year left before Wilson’s negotiation window opens, it’s more realistic to offer another “prove it” deal to a defensive end like Lamarr Houston or Willie Young. Neither may match Bennett’s production, but they can come close enough to be the better value for Seattle.

 

The Case For Tate
By Pete Damilatis

2014-FA-Duels-inset-tateYou can’t blame fans for underestimating Golden Tate. Nothing about his 5-foot-10 frame or 898 receiving yards this season screams “No. 1 wide receiver.” But he’s earned a +20.8 overall grade in the past two seasons, placing him among the Top 25 wide receivers. While he may not have the physical dominance of a Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant, he has an underrated reliability and elusiveness that make him a game changer.

While another coach in the NFC West has raved about having the “best catcher ever,” the best hands in the NFL today actually belong to Tate. After dropping just three passes this season, he’s caught 144 of the 149 catchable balls thrown his way since 2011. His 3.9% Drop Rate in that span is the lowest of any wide receiver in the NFL with 100 targets. Tate makes up for his lack of height with an incredible ability to pinpoint the ball in the air, and Russell Wilson is never afraid to give him a chance for a contested catch. Tate’s 189 yards on scramble plays in the last two seasons is the third-most in the NFL, a testament to his rapport with his quarterback.

When we named Tate the Seahawks’ Secret Superstar last offseason, we also noted his incredible elusiveness after the catch. He continued that trend in 2013, leading all receivers with 21 forced missed tackles on his receptions. Teammate Percy Harvin is one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands, averaging a missed tackle for every 4.7 receptions in the last three seasons. Who is the only player with a better rate on 100 receptions? That would be Tate, who amazingly averages a missed tackle for every 2.8 catches.

That shiftiness also serves Tate well as a punt returner, where he led the league with a +11.9 grade this season. He didn’t have the highest average return and didn’t bring back a kick for a touchdown, but if you re-watch his jaw-dropping moves with 1:19 left in the third quarter against the Buccaneers in Week 9, there’s no doubt that he’s a huge asset on special teams. Losing Tate would hurt Seattle in two phases of the game. His contributions may be a bit more subtle than Bennett’s, but that also makes him much more affordable to keep around. With a lot of big negotiations on the horizon, Tate is the rare Super Bowl winner who can be kept at a value.

The Case Against Tate
By Gordon McGuinness

The case against Tate has little to do with the shifty receiver’s playmaking ability, and more to do with what the Seahawks have on the roster already. Tate has been fantastic since he arrived in Seattle, shaking free from defenders for extra yardage like the best receiver in the league. As Pete already pointed out, though, they also have Percy Harvin who can do damage in that regard, and he adds explosiveness that not even Tate can match. They also have emerging receivers in Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, both of whom showed their worth in the playoffs and it’s hard to see a Seattle offense, lead by Wilson and built off the back of Marshawn Lynch, struggling much with those three as its top wide receivers.

Losing Bennett, however, would cost Seattle their best all-around pass rusher, and someone who’s capable of doing damage on the inside and outside of the defensive line. He’s ranked inside our Top 7 4-3 defensive ends three years in a row since becoming a full-time starter in 2011 and, at only 28 and without too much tread on him, there’s no reason to think he doesn’t have another few great years in him yet.

If the Seahawks aren’t able to bring him back, which would go against the reports we’ve heard so far, they not only need to replace an edge rusher, but also an interior rusher for their sub-packages, too. The defensive line was one of the key reasons why they won a Super Bowl this year, and it simply makes the most sense to bring back a player who has verged on dominant for a few years now, and is capable to making life miserable for offensive lineman throughout the league.

 

If you were the Seahawks general manager and could keep only one, would you opt for Bennett or Tate? Make your case in the comments section.

 

Follow the guys on Twitter at: @PFF_Gordon and @PFF_Pete

  • Jason Jesse

    Bennett. But if they cut Clemons, Bryant, and Rice…they immediately have $20M in cap room. So why not just sign both?

    • Boofighter

      No way they cut Red Bryant. He is a monster against the run and they also could cut their TE Miller (i think 6 mio saved). They cant sign all because the big money for Wilson, Sherman and Thomas is close.

      • Joseph

        I gotta agree, no way they cut Big Red, and to think that is insane. He is a team captain, and sets the tone for that defensive line. Clemons has some trade value, and Rice does also. Rice has to go, and I’d ask Z.Miller to take a paycut or let him go, ASJ from UW is sounding pretty damn good :)

        • paulsuh89

          Clemons and Rice have trade value..? ASJ really is not much of a blocker and I’m not sure if he’s better than Luke Wilson as a receiver.

        • nogoodnamesleft90210

          No player who is in danger of getting cut for being too expensive has any significant trade value (see: Anquan Boldin). I think Bryant, Clemons, and Miller will all be asked to renegotiate or be cut. I think Rice is probably gone regardless because he has been so injury prone.

        • Lenz

          Red only plays on 1st and sometimes 2nd down. Bottom line is he makes too much money for a guy that plays half the time. The Seahawks need to pay their up and coming stars, and Red will likely not be a part of that.

      • guest1guest2

        Nah, dude. There’s a real chance we cut red bryant. We’re paying him 35 million dollar contract that gets more expensive every year. Bennett is a 3 down player and if we pay him big money, unless we move him to the weakside in place of clemons who will likely be cut, we’re cutting bryant.

  • Jason Williams

    Golden Tate. Fail Mary. I can only ever think of him in those terms.

    • PFF_Pete

      Controversial as it was, that play also exemplified that ability to high point the ball that I mentioned above. He’s an expert at getting those contested catches. Plays much taller than his height.

      • Jason Williams

        I continue to see a very average wide receiver who benefits from Russell Wilson’s escapability.

        Just to be clear, I’m very much not a Seahawks fan and I think they are winning with smoke and mirrors and they are a very brief aberration to the trend of high powered offense driven teams.

        Only time will tell if I am right. They sure looked great on Sunday.

        • Joey

          Interested to know what you think are the smoke and mirrors? Are you expecting a drop in production from Wilson, the running backs, defense, all of the above?

          I see a young team that will only get better and a front office with an exceptional eye for talent. Hard for me to see them not being in contention for a while.

          • Jason Williams

            boy have we heard that one before. This is the NFL. If you happen to catch lightning in a bottle one year, enjoy it because chances are you won’t be back the following year unless you’re the Patriots.

          • Johnny Twobutts

            Jason, Back up your arguement or don’t make one. Or better yet go to one of the other sites and troll. And pray whatever team you root for doesn’t have to play Seattle next year. I Would take Bennett over Tate by a slim margin but Love both players. Tate especially makes the most of every opportunity he has to touch the ball and would put up huge numbers in a different system. Bennett is simply one of the best pass rushers in the league. Very tough choice.

          • Jason Williams

            how many repeat champions have we had? there you go. take your self righteousness elsewhere.

          • [email protected]

            Tell us again how lucky Seattle was. You’re only making them hungry for another championship.

          • Perfundle

            Ah, so Manning, Brees, Brady since 2004 and Rodgers never repeating as champions (or even making consecutive Super Bowl trips) means that they’re only catching lightning in a bottle as well?

          • Perfundle

            One year? They were 9th in points per game last year and 8th this year.

        • nogoodnamesleft90210

          “Smoke and mirrors” would indicate Seattle won with scheming and luck. I can’t think of a more inaccurate description. They are notoriously simple with their offensive and defensive game plans, instead relying on superior execution. And their playoff success should hardly be unexpected– they were #1 in regular season DVOA by Football Outsiders.

          • Jason Williams

            clearly you’re a fan of the team. Enjoy their success. I’m looking forward to another team winning next year.

          • nogoodnamesleft90210

            Obviously it will be difficult to repeat and based on past history the odds are against it as it’s impossible to predict injuries, player deterioration, etc. But Seattle has at least one more year with the same basic roster before they start running into tough decisions with the salary cap, and I have no idea why anyone would call them an “aberration” based on “smoke and mirrors”. That would be a more apt description of Baltimore last year or the Giants in ’07 and ’11.

          • plyka

            Ahh, the old ad hominum attack, almost 99% employed when one does not have reasoning or quite frankly an argument of any time. You say they were lucky and it won’t happen again, people come back at you saying that you don’t know what you’re talking about because of point A, B and C, then you reply by “you must be a fan.” Well, you’ve already admitted that you are rooting against them, so perhaps the poster should retort with “clearly you’re a hater, be upset at their success.”

        • Wade8813

          Yes, Russell Wilson
          is phenomenal at escaping, which helps the Seahawks’ offense an incredible amount (Although I don’t know why anyone would expect that ability to go
          anywhere anytime soon). But they also have one of the worst offensive
          lines in the NFL as far as pass blocking – maybe the worst. It seems to
          me that those two facts would mitigate each other to a large extent.

        • Robin

          Not a fan of DVOA either then eh?

          Did the Seahawks “get by” on offense to an extent? Sure, but remember that one of their top weapons was out all year. Chances of a repeat are slim, but calling Seattle “smoke and mirrors” seems like a mistake.

    • [email protected]
  • Thomas James

    Have to go with McGuiness on this one. If I was J. Schneider my belief would be Tate is a nice addition to a playoff caliber offense, but Bennett is an essential all around versatile lineman who makes the Hawks D even more difficult to game plan for than they already are with Chancellor, Thomas, K.J. Wright, Sherman, etc. As McGuiness also said, the cost of bringing in Harvin will most likely be losing Tate unless he takes a hometown discount for the ages.

  • SkinsFan98

    Bennett. Both positions are so deep for the Seahawks but Bennett makes more of an impact considering the Seahawks still have Harvin, Rice, Baldwin and Kearse. I also find it extremely hard to believe that Tate has been a top 25 receiver over the past 2 years.

  • ltmariod

    Personally, I would stick with Bennett. Both are valuable in a variety of ways, but there is a reason that Tate is cheaper. Bennett is the better football player.

  • ibefisherman

    You are all forgetting about Jesse Williams and Greg Scruggs. Seattle is deeper than you think.

    • SJ

      Jesse Williams has a degenerative knee condition that may keep him from ever playing again.

  • [email protected]

    I’m a huge Golden Tate fan, but this isnt even a question. Bennett hands down. I cant believe that their two contracts would be in the same ballpark. I see Tate more in the 3 million range and Bennett at 7 mil.

  • Chief Blahoo

    Golden Tate is good, but a pass rusher is far more important to a team than a wide receiver is. Also if we ranked them amongst their peers at their respective positions, Bennett would rank far higher. I suppose it’s another question about how much it’d cost to retain them, though.

  • dbomb1234

    I’d resign Bennett if he commands 8 million or less a year. I am in the camp that says Red Bryant needs to at least be restructured. I think he’s making 8 million and only plays against the run. Why not see what Scruggs, Williams, or Jordan Hill can do? We also have Benson Mayowa who looked pretty good. You could easily extend Earl Thomas and lock up Bennett if you can get Red, Clemons, Miller, and Rice to restructure/cut. May even get Tate if he is willing for 3-4 million.