Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett will be among the more heavily pursued players when free agency opens in March. Defensive ends coming off 8.5-sack seasons -- and 17.5 over the last two seasons -- don’t just hit the market; they are the market some offseasons.
For that matter, he already is being recruited hard by the Bears – well, one Bear, anyhow – and not in violation of the rules that prohibit negotiations with another team’s pending free agents before Mar. 8.
Bears tight end Martellus Bennett made no secret of his hope to have his older brother in Chicago, where an acute need exists for defensive linemen who can rush passers. Martellus went to Michael’s NFC Championship game in Seattle against San Francisco, “which will be pretty special,” Martellus said beforehand. “I haven’t gotten the chance to do that since we’ve been in the NFL. It’ll be a blessing to watch him play.”
Martellus is using a recruiting “tactic” not exactly available to Phil Emery, Marc Trestman, Mel Tucker and others.
“He’s having a little baby, so he wants our kids to grow up together,” Michael said on Tuesday. “He’ll call me a lot. He’s visited a couple times. Of course my brother wants me to get a chance to play with him.”
Ironically, Michael, 28, went to Seattle in a manner similar to how the Bears brought in guard Matt Slauson, linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, and others – on a one-year, “prove-it” deal in a market with a flat salary cap.
Bennett’s one-year price, however, was $5 million. He likely will command a raise in a thin market. He started just three games but played 617 snaps, most of any Seattle defensive lineman. At 271 pounds, he has every down size and has dropped down inside at tackle as Israel Idonije and Corey Wootton have done in Bears schemes.
The Seahawks may not be able to afford Bennett, and the Bears will be severely squeezed with Julius Peppers on the payroll at even a reduced salary. Cliff Avril left Detroit to sign with Seattle last offseason for $15 million over two years, turning down a three-year offer at $10 million per year from the Lions. That may be the range of what the Bennett market will be.