Free agency and the draft are where GM’s earn their salaries. If the Bears can put together a team this offseason that makes a playoff appearance in 2014, Phil Emery will have earned his. With all the holes to fill on defense, Emery will have to get creative to re-sign the right guys and bring in new ones who can get the job done right away. The job he did with the offensive line last year should give you some hope for what he needs to do with the defensive line this year.
The defensive line last year played like the offensive line had been playing for many seasons before, which is terrible. With limited cap space it’s plausible that Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Julius Peppers, or all three could be out of Chicago. If the Bears let Melton go and traded Peppers they’d open up tons of space immediately to go after free agents and high draft picks on the d-line. With the amount of holes they have to fill, it looks like a smart move.
There’s a few big names the Bears could go after to help a pass rush that finished last in the league in sacks last year. Jared Allen and Justin Tuck are both going to be unrestricted free agents. Allen is in the later stage of his career, and Tuck is starting to show signs of slowing down, despite a good season last year. The Bears have so many holes to fill on defense that they can’t spend huge money on a guy whose price will be inflated by his name, even if it were just a two or three year deal.
Michael Bennett however, provides the Bears with a solid end rusher who can be around longer. He recorded 17.5 sacks the past two seasons. He took his one year “prove-it” deal in Seattle and made the most of it by anchoring a stout defense that won it all. The Bears will have to give Bennett some big money, but, they can pair him with a draft pick, most likely a second rounder to form a cost-effective combination. The Bears will likely go defensive tackle in the first round unless hell freezes over and Jadeveon Clowney is still on the board.
The thing that Bennett can bring to the Bears’ line is speed and versatility. These are two things that Emery loves when piecing players into the lineup. Bennett was able to line up at multiple positions for sacks last season. He was also able to get to the quarterback in under three seconds many times, proving that he wasn’t just getting sacks because he played on a great defense. He is also known to have good hands and technique, and when he can get his opponent off balance with a subtle move, he can attack quickly.
Besides Bennett’s obvious skill on the edge, he is the brother of starting Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. Martellus has already been actively recruiting his brother to make the move to Chicago. The brotherly love may not sway Michael Bennett to Chicago, but, it can’t hurt either.
If the Bears can get Bennett, he’ll have to prove that he can produce on a defense where he may be the focus of the defensive line. He’ll also have to improve on trying to force fumbles, as takeaways are a staple of the great Bear defenses of years past.
For the money, there’s not a better free agent defensive end under 30, according to most analysts. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Bennett has great athletic gifts, which should endear him to Emery.