Defensive end Michael Bennett’s decision to sign a one-year, $5 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks late Thursday caught a lot of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans by surprise.
It might have caught the Bucs by surprise, too.
After saying at late as Tuesday he would give Tampa Bay a chance to better any offer he received on the open market, Bennett opted not to go back to the Bucs before signing with Seattle.
“They acted like they didn’t want me, so no, I didn’t go back to them,’’ Bennett told The Tribune on Friday.
Also on Friday, the Bucs lost free agent defensive tackle Roy Miller, who signed a two-year deal with the Jaguars on Friday, and traded wide receiver Arrelious Benn to the Eagles.
In the Benn deal, the Bucs also sent a seventh-round selection in this year’s NFL draft to the Eagles in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014.
The departures of Bennett and Miller leave the Bucs without two key figures from a rush defense that ranked first in the league last year. Bennett led the team in sacks, as well, though the Bucs seemed to be prepared for his loss.
Last month, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said during the NFL scouting combine the team was eager to see more of Da’Quan Bowers at left end in 2013. Bennett got a similar message from the team.
“I just didn’t feel any love from them at all,’’ Bennett said. “And that’s kind of disappointing, because for a team that you put everything you had into for four years to do that, you’re just kind of, ‘OK, whatever.’
“You do everything you can to grow as a player and get better as a player and you prove yourself over and over again for them, but I guess that’s just who they are.’’
The Bucs declined to comment.
Bennett came to the Bucs in 2009, when Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers from Seattle. He steadily grew into the starting left end and went into free agency as the second-rated end on the market.
He joins a Seahawks team that signed the top end on the market, Cliff Avril, to a two-year, $17.5 million deal on Tuesday. That could leave Bennett playing a reserve role.
“I’m not concerned at all (about playing time),’’ Bennett said. “Everybody is capable of playing on the defensive line here, and I plan to be part of the rotation here. I’ll be all over the place here.’’
The depressed market for defensive ends – Bennett was hoping for a long-term deal worth nearly twice what he signed for – and the Bucs’ attitude toward him sparked his decision to sign with the Seahawks.
“This is the best place for me right now,’’ he said. “It gives me the opportunity that I wanted to be able to do something and just make it better for me (in free agency) for next year.’’
As the start of free agency approached, it became apparent Miller would not return to the Bucs because he was unhappy with the team’s offer. The details of Miller’s contract with Jacksonville were not immediately available, but the Bucs’ 2009 third-round draft pick wrote “Thank You Tampa’’ on his Twitter account shortly after he signed with the Jaguars.
The trading of Benn ends a frustrating chapter for the Bucs, who never got what they expected from the wideout after trading up to acquire him in the second round of the 2010 draft. Benn started slowly as a rookie and suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2011 and 2012.