Bucs give Michael Bennett a first-round tender

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The Buccaneers coaching staff is still getting to know the team, but they clearly have designs on keeping defensive end Michael Bennett around for a while.

Bennett, a restricted free agent come March 13th, told Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times that the team has placed a first-round tender on him. That means any team trying to sign Bennett as a restricted free agent this offseason would have to fork over a first-round pick, making it highly unlikely that Bennett will be playing anywhere but Tampa in 2012.

Bennett started the first 10 games of the year for Tampa before he injured his groin. He was part of the rotation upon his return with last year’s second-round pick Da’Quan Bowers taking his place in the starting lineup. Bennett, who broke in as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks before going to the Bucs on waivers in 2009, had four sacks last season.

He’ll likely be a rotation player behind Bowers and Adrian Clayborn next season and Bennett’s experience at defensive tackle could get him some snaps at that spot as well. The Buccaneers defense had a miserable season in 2011, but their young defensive line is reason to hope that there will be better days ahead.

The tender seemed to please Bennett, who stands to make around $2.7 million if he doesn’t wind up signing a longer deal with the team.

“It’s pretty cool to know they think highly of me,” Bennett said.