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Martellus Bennett gives Bears an ‘in’ with free-agent brother Michael

PHILADELPHIA PA - DECEMBER 22: Tight end Martellus Bennett #83 Chicago Bears attempts avoid linebacker DeMeco Ryans #59 PhiladelphiEagles after

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22: Tight end Martellus Bennett #83 of the Chicago Bears attempts to avoid linebacker DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Philadelphia Eagles after making a catch in the second quarter during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 187482670

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Updated: March 6, 2014 9:49PM



Martellus Bennett turns 27 on Monday, but the tight end probably wouldn’t mind his birthday gift coming a day late, when his brother, the Seattle Seahawks’ star defensive lineman, officially becomes a free agent.

The Bears will have a chance to give the Black Unicorn his reunion wish: Sources told the Sun-Times on Thursday that Michael Bennett will reach the free-agent market rather than sign this week with the Seahawks.

The Bears will be among his suitors when the agent negotiating period begins at 11 a.m. Saturday. Though their agents can, players aren’t allowed to talk to outside teams until formal signings can be made starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Although Michael Bennett said during Super Bowl week that the two playing on the same team was Martellus’ “dream,” this is about more than a family reunion.

The 28-year-old might be the most attractive player on the free-agent market, period, but particularly to the Bears.

No one in the NFL logged fewer sacks than the Bears’ 31 last ­season.

Counting the regular season and playoffs, Michael Bennett had 10 all by himself. He had 51 hurries and 17 knockdowns.

Bennett can play end and tackle, positions of dire need for the Bears. He lined up inside 36.2 percent of the time last season, per Pro Football Focus, and would be a devastating rusher there on passing downs.

In the midst of Extreme Makeover: Defense Edition, the Bears have signed 10 of their own ­potential unrestricted free agents, most in the league. But they figure to have the financial flexibility to compete for Michael Bennett.

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff’s deal on Wednesday was for two years, $4 million, with $600,000 guaranteed, and defensive end Trevor Scott signed Thursday for the minimum.

And that’s before the Bears make a move with Julius Peppers and his $18.2 million cap hit, be it a release or renegotiation. If the Bears plan to let the 34-year-old go, it likely won’t be until after they’ve signed his replacement.

Michael Bennett signed a make-good, one-year, $5 million deal with the Seahawks last season amid concerns about his shoulder. Ten days after the Super Bowl, he infamously declared he wouldn’t give the Seahawks a discount — “This is not Costco!” — and the team acted accordingly.

The Seahawks cleared $12 million in cap space last week by cutting defensive end Red Bryant and wideout Sidney Rice, and seemed poised to make a strong offer.

Instead, Michael Bennett will weigh other teams’ pitches.

The Bears tight end has joked about a reunion since the end of the season, saying that, if his brother reached free agency, he would act “like a college recruiting coach.”

NFL rules say only agents can negotiate Saturday to Tuesday.

So, birthday and all, Martellus Bennett might have to wait on his living-room pitch a few days longer. But he’ll get his chance.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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