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Reports: Michael Bennett to test free agency

By Brady Henderson

Michael Bennett wants to see what kind of deals might be out there.

That was the takeaway from multiple reports on Thursday that stated Bennett, considered one of the best available defensive linemen, doesn't intend to re-sign with the Seahawks before free agency begins March 11. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Bennett left an undisclosed offer from Seattle on the table and will see what he might be able to get on the open market.

It isn't a surprising development given the consistent tune Bennett has sang with regards to his pending free agency, which is that while he wants to return to Seattle he has no interest in giving the Seahawks or anyone else a discount after playing the last two seasons on one-year, team-friendly deals.

During an interview earlier this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Bennett characterized the preliminary talks between his agent and the Seahawks as "positive". While he said the discussions hadn't reached the point where numbers were being exchanged, he indicated that could happen soon.

But instead of accepting Seattle's offer, Bennett will now see how it compares to others.

It doesn't necessarily amount to a significant blow to the Seahawks' chances of retaining Bennett, a player that general manager John Schneider has called "a top priority". Bennett has repeatedly stated his desire to return, and Seattle recently cleared nearly $13 million in cap space by releasing wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant, money the Seahawks can use to re-sign Bennett.

But they'll have to compete with others to do so. And there figures to be plenty of interest in Bennett after he led Seattle with 8.5 sacks in the regular season and added 1.5 more in the playoffs. Beyond his pass-rushing chops, Bennett is considered a good run defender and carries added value thanks to his ability to play both tackle and end.

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.

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