On the eve of the official start of free agency in the NFL, defensive end Michael Bennett agreed to a multi-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Coincidentally, the Chicago Bears was in pursuit of the six-year veteran. Now that Bennett is no longer available, who should the Bears target next?
The defensive end position is one of the spots Chicago needs to focus on this offseason. Their depth is very thin thanks to the Shea McClellin‘s transition to outside linebacker. Furthermore, Corey Wootton is set to be an unrestricted free agent tomorrow, and his future in the Windy City in uncertain.
Most of all, the Bears are now trying to trade the 34-year-old Julius Peppers. It’s been reported that if Chicago can’t find a suitor for the veteran defensive end, the Bears will release Peppers. In seeing who could be a good addition to Chicago’s defensive line for 2014, there are numerous players to choose from, but the two players who have the best chance are Michael Johnson and Lamarr Houston.
Johnson spent the first five years of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, and had a breakout season in 2012 with 11.5 sacks. The 6-foot-7, 270-pounder will be one of the top unrestricted free agents available tomorrow, and if the Bears can get their money right, he could be one of the biggest steals of the offseason.
Even though Johnson appears to look good on paper, Chicago could bring in Houston instead. The past four years, Houston has played for the Oakland Raiders. During that span, Houston has started 60 games for the Raiders, but has amassed only 16 sacks in his career. However, the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder could be a good fit for any defensive alignment. More importantly, Houston probably won’t be as expensive at Johnson.
I know with the eventual departure of Peppers looming, much-needed cap space will be freed up; however, Chicago still won’t be able to afford to put all of their eggs in one basket. Although Johnson is the more attractive of the two, Houston just might be the one inking a deal with the Bears in the near future.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.