Michael Bennett knows his chance to make tens of millions of dollars playing defensive end in the NFL was not borne solely out of God-given talent, hard work and dedication.

He realizes it was also borne, at least in part, out of an opportunity the Bucs gave him when he was on the street looking for work four years ago, and he won't forget that before he cashes in.

"They gave me a chance and took the time to develop me, so I will definitely give them a chance to match whatever kind of offer I get,'' Bennett said as he prepared to enter the NFL's open market on Tuesday.

"I'm definitely still hoping everything works out with the Bucs. Right now I'd say my chances of coming back are 40-60 or maybe even 50-50, because you never know. A lot can still happen once things get going.''

For prospective free agents such as Bennett, who led the Bucs in sacks with nine last year, things will get going at 4 p.m. Tuesday, when teams will finally be given the official go-ahead to start signing non-contracted players.

For the first time this year, the signing period will come in the wake of a three-day stretch in which teams were allowed to negotiate deals.

Bennett said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have taken good advantage of the time.

"A lot of teams have called already,'' Bennett said. "So we'll see what happens. But I'm not in a hurry. This is a big decision for me. I'll probably take a couple days to decide.''