Bennett appears to be Bears’ top free-agent target

  • By Brad Biggs Chicago Tribune
  • Sunday, March 9, 2014 8:38pm
  • SportsSports

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears’ top free-agent target, Michael Bennett, will appear with brother Martellus on Monday morning on NFL Network.

The segment on “NFL AM” is titled “Bro 2 Bro,” according to the network, and is planned for recurring spots on Mondays. Before they’re asked back, it could become “Teammate 2 Teammate.”

More signs point to Bennett being the No. 1 free agent on general manager Phil Emery’s want list after the Tribune reported Saturday the Bears were in strong pursuit of the defensive end to re-energize the club’s pass rush.

If signed, the Bears would likely plug him in at right end, possibly leading to the departure of Julius Peppers. Officials for three other clubs linked Bennett to the Bears and two said they expect it to happen after free agency opens at 3 p.m. Tuesday. One source said Bennett could visit Halas Hall on Tuesday, but rules of the current negotiating window prohibit such a meeting from being scheduled.

There is plenty of time between now and Tuesday afternoon for things to shift, and the Seahawks would like to bring the 28-year-old back. But the Bears have negotiated a multitude of contracts with agent Drew Rosenhaus and might be poised to strike quickly like they did on the first day of free agency a year ago with left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett.

The Bears secured two more players Sunday night when they re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and quarterback Jordan Palmer, who could compete as the backup to Jay Cutler if Josh McCown is not re-signed.

In a perfect world, Emery would find a way to sign a safety and bring back some of his own free agents. But the Bears are expected to be prudent, and things took time a year ago. After Bushrod and Martellus Bennett were signed March 12, the Bears signed 11 players over the next 17 days.

The market for defensive ends took a bit of a jolt Sunday when the Vikings re-signed Everson Griffen to a $42.5 million, five-year contract that includes $20 million guaranteed. How that impacts Bennett and the Bengals’ Michael Johnson remains to be seen. Johnson is believed to be a top target of the Buccaneers. Griffen, 26, is two years younger than Bennett and had 131/2 sacks over the previous two seasons. Griffen’s return to the Vikings means Jared Allen will be moving on.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton remains on the market and is seeking a conventional multiyear contract, a source said. Melton is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee but expects to be medically cleared before training camp. However, his agent, Jordan Woy, has told clubs he will consider a shorter contract, something that would give a team protection given the knee issue.

The small talk that started Saturday is turning to serious business and by Tuesday afternoon we’ll see if the Bears have a family reunion on their hands.

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