UPDATE: In a shocking last minute turn of events, Bennett has opted to take less money and stay with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Chicago Bears have identified their top target in free agency and they aren’t being shy about it. The team has targeted former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, and could be close to signing him.
Bennett’s brother, Martellus, is a tight end for the Bears and is helping the team lure his brother to the Midwest. Additionally, Bears general manager Phil Emery has a good working relationship with Bennett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
Chicago will almost definitely have to release veteran Julius Peppers if it signs Bennett. Both players fit best as right defensive ends, and Peppers is set to count $18.183 million against the salary cap in 2014. If the 34-year-old wants to return to the Bears, he’s going to have to take a gigantic pay-cut. That’s almost certainly not going to happen.
Peppers is coming off a down season during which he had just 7.5 sacks and didn’t look as explosive as we’ve seen in the past. He has been a solid player for the Bears during his four seasons in town, but he’s not close to worth the huge cap hit retaining him will cost.
Bennett spent one season in Seattle and helped the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title. The 28-year-old had 31 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 16 games in 2013. He arrived in Seattle after four average seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during which he had 15 total sacks.
But Bennett has the look of a guy who is coming into his own and Seattle wants him back badly. The problem for the Seahawks is that they are up against the salary cap as well and may not be able to put together a competitive package.
As of now we fully expect Bennett to sign with the Bears when free agency officially opens on Tuesday. Expect Peppers to be cut shortly thereafter.