John Schneider has several big extensions to consider in 2017, so it makes sense that he started early — removing any doubt about Michael Bennett remaining with the team beyond 2017.
Schneider and Doug Hendrickson, Bennett’s new agent, had been talking about a new deal since the summer, so it is not a big surprise they finished it off before this season ends.
The extension, reportedly for three years and $31.5 million, is almost the terms of the deal they worked out for Marshawn Lynch after the 2014 season.
Bennett — unhappy with his previous deal for a couple of years — reportedly had wanted $14 million a year, but he took $11.5 million instead. It still places him in the top five among NFL defensive ends in annual average. Jets 3-4 end Muhammad Wilkerson makes $17 million a year, the Giants’ Olivier Vernon gets $17 million, Houston’s J.J. Watt $16.7 million and the Rams’ Robert Quinn $14 million. The Saints’ Cameron Jordan and Arizona’s Calais Campbell each average $11 million.
Bennett reportedly will be guaranteed $17.5 million on the new deal and make $16 million in 2017. He previously was set to make $7.5 million in 2017, so it looks like he got a signing bonus of around $8.5 million. The deal apparently includes a $3 million roster bonus in March 2018, meaning he would make $9 million that year and $25 million over the next years.
By doing the deal now, Schneider kind of bent his rule about redoing deals with more than a year left — but who is going to quibble over one games? By doing it in the 2016 season, Schneider gets to prorate the signing bonus over one more year and use up some of the $4 million or so the Hawks had left in the 2016 cap.
The rest of that can be rolled over to 2017 — if Schneider doesn’t use it on Kam Chancellor before Sunday. Schneider pulled a similar late-season move with deals for Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright in 2014.
Chancellor, Graham and Britt also are in line for contract extensions in 2017 — the team’s top business beyond re-signing some cheaper role players (Steven Hauschka, RFA DeShawn Shead, et al.).
NFL teams were told recently that the 2017 salary cap is expected to be between $166 million and $170 million. That’s about where it was projected and means the Hawks have at least $35 million in cap space to take care of those players and fill out the rest of their roster.