In his eight seasons in the NFL, Michael Bennett has climbed from an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Pro Bowl level performer with the Seattle Seahawks. And every step of the way, the colorful defensive end has done things his way.
Rising: Browns — The Browns might be the most improved team in the NFL, but are also one of the youngest. They could finally get out the basement in the AFC North and, while not quite ready to compete for a playoff spot, they’re not far away.
Circle this game on the schedule: Ravens at Steelers, Week 14, Dec. 10 — The Sunday night game at Heinz Field could be for the division, though the final matchup between the two division contenders comes with three weeks remaining in the season.
On the familiarity with the Steelers after playing them twice per season with the Browns: “Definitely. I have my guys, man. Marcus Gilbert and Pouncey, and then AB. These are some really, really cool dudes. I’ve met Ben (Roethlisberger) a couple times, probably like the Pro Bowls or whatever, just seeing him around. Just a good group of dudes, man, and I just felt like this was gonna be something special.”
On if his release came as a surprise: “Yeah, I was definitely surprised. I was super ready. I was prepared to go into the season. I was training for it, and I was just ready to go. It definitely came out of the blue to me.”
On what caused his release: “I think it was my contract. I think they wanted me to take — actually, I don’t think, they wanted me to take a pay cut. And I wasn’t trying to take a pay cut.”
Donald still has two years left on his rookie contract, one that will pay him a combined base salary of less than $9 million. But the Rams at the very least seem open to making him the game’s highest paid defensive player and are privately confident that something will be figured out.