BY Art Thiel 06:02PM 03/10/2014

Thiel: Bennett discovers, actually, it is Costco

In re-signing for less than market value, DE Michael Bennett took a hometown discount and sent a message to free agents across the NFL: Play here.

Michael Bennett, who scored a touchdown in the Dec. 2 game against the Saints on a 22-yard fumble return, is back. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

When Michael Bennett was asked recently whether in his free agency he would give the Seahawks a hometown discount to re-sign with the Super Bowl champions, he responded rather defiantly in the negative, saying no, “This isn’t Costco.”

I thought at the time, “Well, actually, it is like Costco. The Seahawks buy their defensive linemen in bulk. They use a lot of them, so the cost per unit purchased is less expensive. If a manufacturer thinks he has a high-end appliance worth more per unit than Costco would pay, he can sell it to Albert Lee. But if he wants to move product . . . “

Seahawks fans are glad Bennett came to grasp the world of retail.

Indeed he took a hometown discount to stay with the Seahawks. He admitted Monday, after signing a four-year deal worth $28.5 million, including $16 million guaranteed, that he left money on the table from other bidders to return.

“Yeah, there was more, but I wanted to be here, man,” Bennett said at a hastily call press conference at the Seahawks VMAC headquarters in Renton. Then he went on to deliver a commercial for the Seahawks that probably paid for a good chunk of the contract right there, at least as regards how current free agents, be they Seahawks or from other teams, might perceive staying with, or joining, him in Seattle.

“There are a lot of young guys here, and there are a lot of winning ways,” he said. “I just love the organization and the things that they are about. I love the staff, from the equipment staff to the medical staff; it just goes on and on.

“Everybody here (is) just good people, and I really enjoy that . . . At the end of the day it was about being comfortable and being in a good situation. Sometimes, going to a whole other organization doesn’t work out the way it worked out for me, coming here and being with these guys. I saw people take a lot of money and they go to other places and that place isn’t what you thought it would be. I know what this place is.”

It is the home of championship football, as well as an exceptional work environment created by coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider.

Bennett’s comments might be dismissed as a natural response after being generously rewarded, along with a desire to encourage other premier players to sign up. But the fact is that nearly every Seahawk feels more or less the same, especially those who’ve been with more than one pro team.

My week in New York prior to the Super Bowl allowed me to listen to a great many players tell a great many media members new to the Seahawks story the same theme: Even beyond the achievement of delivering one of the more lopsided batterings in Super Bowl history was the establishment of a methodology of respect, fairness and a politics-free competition mixed with personal freedom.

All things being equal — and clearly less than equal, in terms of Bennett’s other offers — players will gravitate to this franchise as if it were a loose ball in the backfield.

That is why so many players and others who have watched what has happened over Carroll’s four years in Seattle see more championships in the team’s future.

Carroll repeatedly insisted that one Super Bowl triumph is not the ultimate prize. The prize is the sustaining of excellence. The winning or losing of a single game can come down to a random occurrence — a bounce of the ball or the error in an official’s call. But being in position to win every time is an exceedingly hard feat in a sport where the emphasis on parity and the rewards of free agency are designed limits on sustainable success.

Think of it this way: Dominant as was the Super Bowl win, the Seahawks’ most impressive accomplishment may have been that the largest margin of their three defeats was seven points. That means they were one play away from winning every game on the schedule in a system built to preclude that very thing.

The beauty of Carroll’s methods is that they cost nothing. Sure, the VMAC is a great facility, and it’s wonderful to have as owner one of the world’s richest men who steadfastly butts out of football decisions. But in a ruthless business, treating people honorably and fairly is a free way to create a tiebreaker when veteran players have choices.

What Bennett said.

There is one other thing.

“The fans are one of the biggest reasons I came back,” Bennett said. “These people love their Seahawks. The 12th Man is the biggest thing. They just love the players.

“I really appreciate how much they put into being one of the biggest reasons why we win games.”

Again, a cynic will suggest Bennett is being predictably gratuitous. But the cynic likely has never stood on the floor of the Clink to feel the air vibrate.The cynic hasn’t stood on a curb outside the airport with 20,000 others to wave good-bye. The cynic has not been engulfed on a 10-degree winter day by a civic hug among hundreds of thousands.

Yes, Bennett took a hometown discount. He took it in Seattle, home to the 12th Man, home to Costco, where sports joy suddenly is purchased in bulk.


  • Joe Fan

    Great article Art.

  • Jamo57

    Too bad team headquarters is no longer in Kirkland. That would make the metaphor complete!

    BTW, someone forward this column to Golden Tate please!

    • eYeDEF

      I think Tate already gets it. He’s been open from the start about wiling to take a little less to re-sign. Always possible the Jets could blow him away with an offer though.

      • art thiel

        He’s hearing shouts from Sherman and others, too. Bennett made a statement with his deal.

        • eYeDEF

          Yeah really. Which really bodes well for Sherman willing to take a cap friendly deal to stay too. I’ve heard a lot from fans claiming he’ll be unaffordable since he’ll insist on a Revis busting 16 mil a year, but I’ve never seen anything to support that.

          • hateTate

            And we have just witnessed what happened to Revis…

    • just passing thru

      Costco HQ is in Issaquah, just FYI.

      Delighted Bennett is back!

      • art thiel

        True. But the store’s Kirkland brand is named after the bucolic burg of the same name.

      • Jamo57

        Indeed. That was a reference to their private label as Art points out. Poor town. Both the Hawks and Costco have bolted! What’s next? Lee Johnson?

        • just passing thru

          Ha ha, yes indeed to both of you. Go Kirkland!

          Art – good article loving up Russell Wilson in the Alaska Air mag!

          • Jamo57

            Yes, absolutely! I saw the article on a flight last Tuesday and actually learned a number of things about Russell that hadn’t already been told time and again. My return flight is tomorrow. Maybe I will steal a copy. :-)

          • hateTate

            You don’t have to steal, they are printed to be taken

  • jafabian

    Funny how Bennett tries to play hardball but when it comes to brass tacks he knows what’s best for his career is to remain a Seahawk. Give credit to John Schneider for not going for the bluff.

    • eYeDEF

      How do you know he didn’t? When his agent started that whispering campaign to journalists that a Chicago signing was imminent and Bennett did that TV show tease with his brother on NFL network where it seemed like he would announce his decision but didn’t it was being reported Schneider was doing a full court press within the last 24 hours to get Bennett signed.

      In the end I don’t blame him one bit for wanting a feel of what his free market value was to negotiate better terms. After all he came here on a heavy discount last year and was a key piece to land them the championship, he definitely deserved to maximize what he could get when he hadn’t yet landed that big contract yet at 28.

      • art thiel

        Bennett was priority No. 1, yet the Seahawks got him slightly under market, if Everson Griffen’s deal w/Vikings is used. And as I wrote, Bennett’s infomercial yesterday was worth a great deal to the Seahawks.

    • art thiel

      Bennett wanted to send a message that he wanted market value. But the fact that he took less, for the reasons stated, speaks well to the entire operation. I think $28M trumps a little sheepishness.

  • 1coolguy

    I have nothing to add: Another great Thiel column. Thanks Art!

    • art thiel

      Thanks, cool.

  • Good article, but I think the hometown discount story line is being a bit overblown here. From all the reports I’ve read, the difference in salary between what Chicago was offering and what Seattle signed him for boils down to about $500,000 per season.

    I’m not suggesting that half a million dollars a year isn’t a lot of money (it obviously is), but let’s not act like Bennett took some enormous pay cut to stay in Seattle. If my math is right, the Seahawks still paid about 95% of what Chicago was willing to give him. That’s still a discount, but it’s not exactly an enormous bargain.

    • Pixdawg13

      And a factor not mentioned here–Illinois has a state income tax. The numbers I heard yesterday range from $957,000 to 1.4 million that Bennett would have had to pay in state income taxes.

    • art thiel

      Not sure what the Bears were prepared to guarantee, but that was big for Bennett, and Pixdawg13’s point below is an under the radar Seattle advantage.

    • eYeDEF

      He could have driven up the price by drawing it out more though by visiting other teams since there were multiple teams interested and he was considered the top DE on the market. That seems to be how the biggest fish play it in free agency to create a bidding war. I’m grateful he didn’t do that, especially if reports are true and one of those teams was really the niners.

  • JN

    Thanks Art, for the beautiful wrap on Bennett staying home, and for spinning his home discount line into a great analogy on how workplace satisfaction does play a role in some players’ free agency decision. There may be only one fine detail you left out of your story, and that’s how well Costco treats and rewards ITS employees: It only takes a glance at your checker’s nametag next time through the line, and you’ll notice something similar to “Employee since 1992…”— a mind-boggling length of service time for a stand-up-all-shift customer service position. Costco has treated its employees with respect for years, and now we’ve just seen Bennett acknowledge that the Seahawks offer players something similar — something that trumped at least a couple million. One more reason to appreciate Snyder, Carroll, and the 12s!
    PS: I only shop there, never known anyone who worked at Costco….

    • art thiel

      You’re right, the analogy does go further. I’ve heard how Costco has built some strong employee loyalty. The non-compensation virtues that an enlightened employer brings often cost little to nothing. Seeing Bennett’s comments should cause every NFL FA, or future FA, to use them as a tie-breaker.

      • hateTate

        What, exactly, does this have to do with HIS Costco metaphor?

    • eYeDEF

      Yup on the Costco metaphor.

      Walmart on the other hand …

  • Arzurama

    One interview I heard w/ MB, he said, yes he left $$$ on the table, but the guarantee structure of the Seahawks deal was a major factor. I don’t know what CHI offered in way of guarantee (or SF, or…) but maybe Bennett sees the future writing on the wall with a contract restructuring in 3-4 yrs and decided – all things considered – take the guarantee and play ball with the home he knows & feels good about. Costco is pretty freakin’ cool