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Bears sign Earl Bennett to 4-year, $18 million extension

Earl Bennett looks for upfield yardage after recptifirst half Bears' game against San Diego Soldier Field Sunday Nov. 20 2011.

Earl Bennett looks for upfield yardage after a recption in the first half of the Bears' game against San Diego at Soldier Field Sunday Nov. 20, 2011. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 2, 2011 2:26PM

The Bears have retained one of its key players before he became a free agent, signing Earl Bennett to a four-year, $18 million contract that includes $9 million in guarantees.

Bennett has just 18 catches this season. But the Bears admire what the former third-round pick brings to the table, in terms of his attitude, his toughness and his obvious chemistry with former Vanderbilt teammate Jay Cutler. He is also one of the better slot receivers in the league.

Bennett had his best season in 2009, when he caught 54 passes for 717 yards.

By comparison, the Detroit Lions signed receiver Nate Burleson to a contract that included $11 million in guarantees. But that was a five-year deal, with a total value of $25 million.

“I’s home, man,” Bennett said of Chicago. “The organization has been loyal to me, and I want to be loyal to them. They had the first shot at it.”

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