The math isn’t hard to figure out. The Bears need to make an upgrade on the defensive line this offseason, and one of the quickest ways to do that is on the free agent market. There just so happens to be a defensive end on the market named Michael Bennett, who happens to be the brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. The same Martellus Bennett the Bears signed to a four-year $20 million deal last offseason.
So guess who the Bears are expected to go after pretty hard? Well, your mom was totally lying to you when she told you that you were smart, but it turns out you’re not entirely stupid either. It’s Michael Bennett.
This from Brad Biggs in the Chicago Tribune:
Multiple sources indicate they are in play for Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, the older brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, and one of the two best pass rushers on the market.
Several agents indicated Saturday, when the negotiating window opened, was mostly a feeling out process. It is going to be a long ride to 3 p.m. Tuesday when teams can put contracts in front of free agents to sign and a lot could change over what amounts to almost three full days for number crunching and smoke screens.
Obviously, if this were to actually happen, it would obviously mean the end of Julius Peppers with the Bears. But will it happen? That I’m not so sure of.
Yes, it would make a lot of sense for the Bears to go after Bennett, but it makes a lot of sense for quite a few teams to go after him as well. He’s rated as the best free agent available by Pro Football Focus after all. So while there’s an obvious need for Bennett in Chicago, and there’s the obvious connection with his brother, will that alone be enough to lure him to Chicago? It’s entirely possible somebody else will make a better offer, and this will likely be the last time Bennett is in a position to cash in like this. It would be hard to pass up the money.
Which is why the Bears are also reportedly interested in Michael Johnson of the Bengals. Johnson’s numbers took a dip in 2013. After racking up 11.5 sacks in 2012 he had only 3.5 in 2013. I’m guessing his 2013 numbers are more indicative of the kind of pass-rusher Johnson is. Still, Johnson is still very solid against the run, which was a big problem on the Bears defense last season as well, and flashes occasional brilliance as a pass-rusher.
Overall I’d prefer Bennett, but the question Phil Emery and the Bears will have to answer is whether or not Bennett’s production would outweigh Johnson’s enough to make up for the likely difference in salary. Personally, I believe it will.
Biggs’ story also says that while the Bears are likely going to sign a free agent safety, they won’t go after one of the top guys. So while I’d love Jairus Byrd in a Bears uniform, it’s probably not going to happen. Not unless the Bears miss out on both Johnson and Bennett, that is, and I’ve always preferred improving your defense from the line first, and then the secondary.
Which is why my ideal offseason for the Bears would include signing Michael Bennett, and then using the first round pick on Aaron Donald out of Pitt. I think Donald is just a monster waiting to happen, and even though there are some very good safeties that will be available, as well as a few other linemen, I think Donald is the best choice. Then find a cheaper veteran safety — Biggs mentions Mike Mitchell and Ryan Mundy as two guys the Bears like — while drafting somebody like Jimmie Ward, Deonne Bucannon, or Calvin Pryor at safety in the second round.
That alone wouldn’t fix all that’s wrong with the Bears defensive personnel, but it’d be a big step forward.
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