Commentary | Michael Bennett one of many players misjudged by winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers

October 30, 2013 

Seahawks Cardinals Football

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (72) battles against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

RICK SCUTERI — AP

Michael Bennett is the poster boy for what is wrong with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

When his former team visits the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, he will be playing against a franchise that said it didn't need him.

The Seahawks defensive end led the Bucs last year with nine sacks. He wasn't good enough for the hapless, winless Bucs, but he is starting for 7-1 Seattle.

He is one of many reasons why Tampa Bay must dump head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik.

Bennett is an example of an organization that cannot properly evaluate talent and doesn't know how to get the most out of its dollar.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, is just as culpable, but the family that owns the team isn't going anywhere.

The Glazers fired the organization's two best head coaches in Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden and hired perhaps the two worst in Raheem Morris and Schiano.

What you hope is that the family will bring in a real football guy, step out of the way and let him do his job. Dominik is a cheap yes man, but his value brings diminishing returns.

Since he began overseeing the draft in 2009, Domink has had more misses than hits. His venture into free agency the last two years when the Glazers decided to spend money has had mixed results.

That brings us back to Bennett.

Defensive end is among the highest-paid positions in the NFL, and Bennett was signed for about $5 million, a mere pittance.

The relevance of the position cannot be overstated in today's pass-happy NFL.

The Bucs said they had a better man in Da'Quan Bowers, selected in the second round of the 2011 draft.

He has been abysmal.

Bennett has recorded 33 pressures, is rated second among 4-3 defensive ends in pass rushing productivity and has 4.5 sacks.

Three other defensive linemen who were let go by Schiano are having solid seasons in Dallas' George Selvie (five sacks), Cincinnati's Wallace Gilberry (three sacks) and New England's Chris Jones (4.5 sacks).

The Bucs have 17 sacks, but it has come at a big sacrifice. The production from the defensive line has dropped significantly, and it accounts for only seven of those sacks.

Only six of their 17 pressures have come as a result of beating a blocker. The Bucs are pulling

other people from different positions to apply pressure, and that is part of the reason Tampa Bay has allowed 31 points in each of its past three games.

The Bucs have gone against conventional thinking in paying salaries, purchasing free agents and in the draft. That's OK if you are winning, but they are not.

It's a given in the NFL that guard is the least valuable position on the offense, but the Bucs have invested heavily in that position with Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks.

The Bucs selected safety Mark Barron with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft and signed free-agent safety Dashon Goldson.

Both are having disappointing seasons, but they are really performing up to expectations. The stat geeks from ProFootballFocus.com have them rated as the 69th and 76th most productive safeties in the NFL this season.

Barron and Goldson are known as physical guys with mediocre cover skills and haven't done anything to dispel that reputation. Goldson played with three All-Pro linebackers at San Francisco. They made him look a lot better than he was.

The Bucs made big splashes when they went on spending sprees to get cornerback Darrelle Revis and Goldson this year and Vincent Jackson, Nicks and Eric Wright last year.

Only Jackson and Revis to this point have proven they are worth the money.

Tampa Bay has gone against the trend of paying higher than the ongoing rate for several positions. Nicks has been hurt, but Wright was an absolute disaster with a litany of problems.

Safety is the third-highest paid position for the Bucs, although it is ninth in the NFL's overall salary structure. In the new NFL, safety has the lowest franchise tag cost of all the positions except kicker/punter.

The defensive end position for the Bucs ranks ninth in its salary cap structure, but is the second-highest paid position in the NFL.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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