Free agent face off: Michael Bennett vs. Michael Johnson

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

On the eve of free agency and with the Bears rumored to be making a play for both of the top defensive ends available on the open market, which end does Pro-Football Focus think is better?

It has been no secret that, since the legal tampering period opened Saturday, the Bears are going to be movers and shakers in free agency in an attempt to shore up their porous defense from last season.

It's been reported that the Bears will be in play as potential landing spots for Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. The two players are considered the top two players on the market and there are a number of teams (and thus, dollars) expected to be chasing after them.

So, good on the Bears to be pursuing two players rather than putting all of their efforts into signing one player because, if that player decided to sign elsewhere, then the team will have nothing to show for it. At least this way, if they were to miss out on both Johnson and Bennett, they can't be faulted for trying too hard on one and missing the other or not trying at all.

But if the team were to win the sweepstakes for one of these players, which would be the better signing?

To get a feel for this I decided to check out the grades over at profootballfocus.com. PFF has Bennett as their number one free agent DE and Johnson as the No. 4, but the No. 2 in terms of available players. Check out that link to look at all the FA rankings.

Another PFF article that caught my eye was their Subset scouting report on Bennett and Johnson. Subset scouting is fairly new to PFF, it looks at players best four games (Subset+) and their four worst games (Subset-) to help build a better picture of consistency of a player. If a players four best games clocked in +17.0, +10.5, +9.0 and +8.5 but his worst were -3.5, -1.0, -4.0 and -2.0 then it would show that the player in question is wildly inconsistent.

So what did PFF's subset scouting have to say about Johnson and Bennett?

On Johnson:

Johnson showed more consistent upside as a pass rusher this season (Subset+ of +11.4, 11th-best in the league) and made strides in his Middle-8, but his Subset- of -8.9 (five games of -1.3 grade or worse) was among the league’s worst, and very similar to Bennett’s last season in Tampa Bay in that regard with too many games with no impact as a pass rusher.

On Bennett:

Bennett’s Subset+ pass rush grade fell away a little in 2013, but his Middle-8 was much improved and most importantly his Subset- marking out a consistently destructive and productive season. Only Robert Quinn (+26.5) had a better Middle-8 grade as a pass rusher than Bennett’s +10.6 among 4-3 defensive ends as a measure of the games you get most consistently from a player, while Bennett tied Quinn for the best Subset- as a pass rusher last season (-2.0).

So looking at that it would appear that Bennett was much more consistent and had a monster 2013 season, which is fine but consider that Bennett had more help around him in Seattle than he did in Tampa Bay, and more help than Johnson did last season with Geno Atkins being hurt and all.

To boot, as a pass-rusher, PFF notes that Bennett was way more consistent than Johnson

The two players show similar profiles against the run (consistently among the league’s best in each grading subset), so it’s the development of consistency as a pass rusher that Bennett has over Johnson as both enter free agency for the second season in a row.

PFF also points out that Seattle greatly increased the number of snaps Bennett saw inside rushing from a tackle position which put him in a better position to make plays. This is something that the Bears could do in their new, more-hybrid-type defense but is that something that would help Johnson improve against the pass rush?

Be sure to check out the entire article and all the other nuggets over and PFF and then sound off, whom would you rather see lining up for the Bears this fall, Bennett or Johnson?

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