The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have parted ways with not one, but two key members of the defense, losing free agent defensive end Michael Bennett to the Seattle Seahawks and defensive tackle Roy Miller to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Considered one of the best free agent defensive ends on the market, Bennett got a baffling one-year deal with the Seahawks for a reported $5 million. That's a bargain considering the number of teams inquiring about his services and in need of a pass rusher.
Unfortunately for him and other defensive ends such as Cliff Avril, it's a buyers' market and teams aren't willing to dish out the types of contracts seen in the past.
But $5 million would hardly put a dent in the Bucs' salary cap. His performance this past season, in which he played under a $2.74 million first-round tender and recorded 9 sacks, would certainly justify a payout.
And that's what you do when building a team -- reward your own players.
A former undrafted free agent who worked his way into a starting role, Bennett became the Bucs' most consistent pass rusher the last two seasons.
He beat out Da'Quan Bowers in Bowers' rookie season and stepped in for Adrian Clayborn in 2012 when Clayborn succumbed to a season-ending knee injury.
The Bucs may have invested more in Clayborn and Bowers as first and second-round picks, but no one gave the team greater insurance than Michael Bennett. He played in all but five games the last three years -- 43 out of 48 games, missing only two in the last two seasons.
Meanwhile Roy Miller, a third-round draft pick in 2009, endured two head coaching changes, three defensive coordinators, and has flip-flipped from playing the outside to the interior.
Under Jim Bates, he was ordered to gain a massive amount of weight, going from 285 to 325 in one offseason. Known for his quickness off the snap, he never felt right playing heavy, but he never complained either.
He was later asked to take the weight off, and found a home working alongside Gerald McCoy at the nose tackle position. He replaced the guy originally drafted to work alongside McCoy, Brian Price.
Price left the team due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that included the effects of a fractured pelvis and the death of his sister.
Miller stepped in, helping shore up an interior defensive line that was routinely exploited by opponents in previous years, particularly in the run game.
While Miller wasn't known as a pass rusher, he plugged the middle and helped McCoy to a Pro Bowl season. The Buccaneer defense also gave up the fewest rushing yards in the league, although some would call it a skewed figure due to a particularly vulernable pass defense.
Like Bennett, Miller wasn't projected to be a star, but he stepped in, and filled a void during seemingly desperate times.
Did you have any idea what the team was going to do with Price gone? I sure didn't.
Did you think the Bucs' season was in real trouble when Adrian Clayborn went down in September and Da'Quan Bowers was still recovering from a torn Achilles?
Bennett thrived on the outside, and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, another 'red-chip' talent, earned himself an opportunity.
McCoy, Clayborn, and Bowers may have more star potential and may be more physically gifted, but for every 'blue-chip' talent on a team, there are multiple 'red-chip' players who carry the weight, day-in and day-out.
And those are the majority of guys who comprise an NFL roster. By rewarding them, you send a strong message to your locker room that says, "You belong. And we appreciate you. Keep working hard, and you'll be rewarded too."
By cutting those players and continuing to bring in new faces with bigger contracts, you're downplaying their significance, and morale suffers. Look at what happened with the Philadelphia and its 'dream team.'
Say what you will about players still earning paychecks, but NFL guys still want to feel like they are valued. And during the negotiation process, Michael Bennett didn't feel valued in Tampa.
From a financial standpoint, value is very important to the Buccaneers front office, and they won't reward a player for more than they feel he is worth, even with more money to spend this offseason than any other team.
And one thing is clear, especially with Miller -- the team values physical attributes and production over intangibles like leadership and work ethic. Or at least that's the way it appears. That's the message I get.
So on Miller goes, with a chance to step in and start right away with the Jags. He brings the type of toughness up the middle that new head coach Gus Bradley covets and former defensive line coach Todd Wash recognized when the two worked together in Tampa.
It's a shame the Bucs didn't recognize it.
And it's a shame Bennett had to walk away from Tampa to accept what will likely be another reserve spot, playing second-fiddle once again.