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Seattle Seahawks

Down to business

Despite the Seahawks’ overtures, it’s expected that defensive end Michael Bennett will test free-agent market. (Associated Press)
Despite the Seahawks’ overtures, it’s expected that defensive end Michael Bennett will test free-agent market. (Associated Press)

Seahawks begin attempts to preserve roster

Unrestricted free agent Michael Bennett is not walking around with a 30 percent-off sticker affixed to his forehead.

As he said after the season, this is not Costco. This is real life. There will be no discounts.

Welcome to NFL free agency.

After a potent season at defensive end and tackle for the Seattle Seahawks he’s become the Seahawks’ most sought unrestricted free agent. Official talks between his agent and the Seahawks can start this morning. The backdoor conversations have been going on for weeks.

Players cannot sign new contracts until Tuesday. In between, teams have an exclusive three-day window to talk to their unrestricted free agents. Multiple reports have said Bennett will become of a free agent instead of signing early with the Seahawks.

He’s one part of the Seahawks’ effort to keep together their Super Bowl winning team as much as possible. Wide receiver Golden Tate is the other unrestricted free agent of note. He led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season.

Friday, the Seahawks took their first mild steps toward roster retention. A second-round tender offer was made to wide receiver and restricted free agent Doug Baldwin. If Baldwin signs the tender, that means he is under contract in 2014, at least initially, for $2.187 million.

These are often holdover offers. Baldwin can sign the tender offer, then see if the Seahawks restructure his contract closer to the season. In most cases, the restructuring comes with a threat of being cut by the team if the player does not accept less money than the initial tender offer. It’s unlikely Baldwin would find himself in that situation, but a good reminder NFL teams are able to operate with ruthlessness.

If Baldwin chooses not to sign the tender, he can negotiate with any team through May 2. If he signs with a new team, the Seahawks can match the offer and retain him. If the Seahawks choose not to match the offer, they receive a compensatory second-round pick for another team signing Baldwin.

When it comes to dealing with free agents, this is a piece-meal offseason for the Seahawks. Friday, they signed backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre and backup safety Jeron Johnson to one-year contract extensions. Each was a restricted free agent.

Bennett and Tate are two important starters. But, they don’t carry the panache of Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman, who can become free agents after the 2014 season.

While the Seahawks manage this year’s salary cap and roster needs, they are also balancing the future.

Seattle and the rest of the league received more room in the waistband last week when the 2014 salary cap was raised $10 million from last season. The cap is expected to continue its rise during the next three years, something that could be a huge benefit for the Seahawks’ attempt to remain atop the NFL.