UPDATE 11AM PST: Seahawks emerging as favorites to sign Bennett.
The Chicago Bears are in 'strong pursuit' of Seahawks' free agent DL Michael Bennett and 'expect' to sign him once free agency officially opens on Tuesday.
According to Rotoworld, via the Chicago Tribune,
The Bears are in "strong pursuit" of Martellus' brother, and reportedly hope to replace Julius Peppers with Michael at right defensive end. Two club officials told the Tribune they expect Bennett to sign with Chicago "after free agency opens at 3 p.m. (CT) Tuesday." Bears GM Phil Emery has a strong working relationship with agent Drew Rosenhaus, who reps Bennett.
NOTE: It's worth pointing out that the Tribune story cited two non-Chicago club officials, i.e., not personnel people within the Bears. This means, really, it's purely a speculative report.
Bennett's brother Marcellus is a Bear and has heavily recruited Michael to Chicago. Martellus followed a similar career path, choosing a one-year deal with the Giants in 2012 after his rookie deal with Dallas ended. His stock was relatively low at the time, so he took a 'prove it' deal to boost his value and show he was worth a longer-term deal. He bet on himself and won, signing a four-year, $20M contract with the Bears after having a solid campaign in New York.
Michael played 2013 on a $5M deal after the defensive end/defensive tackle market fell through last year. It's probable that Seattle tried to ink him to a mid-level multi-year deal based on last year's market, but Bennett wanted to play the season out and give himself a chance at one last big contract this offseason. He may be getting an opportunity for that in Chicago, if these reports prove to be correct.
For what it's worth, the NFL's negotiating period is rife with eventually-false rumors, so keep that in mind. This is called the negotiation period for a reason. Bennett has stated he would like to stay in Seattle long term, so it certainly behooves him to create the perception that he's highly valued elsewhere to possibly boost the offer that Seattle currently has on the table for him.
Bennett was on NFL AM with his brother this morning and played coy, as the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell notes. "You just got to stay tuned, man, like a suspenseful movie," he said. "I got to leave it suspenseful right now."
Bennett talked about his brother's sales pitch for Chicago. "He got great points, but, man, I got to leave it suspenseful for the next couple of hours and go home and make the right decision. It's really hard, though. So many things play a key into the decision of where your future, where you're going to play at. But hey, I love my brother. He is one of the best tight ends in the league, so it's going to be hard."
Here's the segment: NFL AM: Bro to Bro