There is no question the Chicago Bears have every intention of locking up Henry Melton for the long haul. It was why they slapped the franchise tag on him for 2013, in order to buy time so they can work out a deal that is favorable to everybody. Chances of that happening are good. Melton signed the tender without any thought of a holdout, showing his interest is in Chicago first. However, history says nothing is a guarantee when money is involved. Could the defensive tackle slip into 2014 NFL free agency?
Bears know Melton is crucial with age of Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers
A cardinal rule of every team is to never lose young stars in favor of old ones. The Chicago Bears know this, otherwise they would never have let Brian Urlacher walk. Henry Melton is one of the keys to their defensive future. At age 26 and coming off his first Pro Bowl the young defensive tackle should become the anchor around which GM Phil Emery builds for years. The timing couldn’t be better too. Veterans like Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers who have brought years of great play to the Windy City are well into their 30s. The days of them running the show are drawing to a close and it falls to guys like Melton to assume the mantle when they are gone. That of course depends on whether Chicago does their job and hands him a long-term deal. Such things have been bungled before in NFL history, a few of them by the Bears themselves. All it takes is one or two missteps and everything can fall apart. If Melton were to hit the open market, it wouldn’t take him long to find a new home either.
Rod Marinelli key to helping Cowboys build new defense
The Dallas Cowboys would sit atop that list for several reasons. They aren’t shy about spending in free agency to find players they need. The team only recently shifted to a 4-3 scheme under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, meaning pass rushing defensive tackles like Melton are very welcome. Perhaps the biggest key is one of their more recent coaching hires in Rod Marinelli. Before taking over as defensive line coach under Kiffin, Marinelli was the highly respected defensive coordinator in Chicago under Lovie Smith. There he turned the Bears defense into the 5th ranked overall unit in the league in 2012 while turning Melton into one of the top interior pass rushers. Dallas has hope he can work the same magic for DeMarcus Ware and company. Reuniting with Rod makes a ton of sense for Melton, especially since he is exactly the kind of player currently missing from the Cowboys roster. At present they have no pure three-technique defensive tackle worth noting. Granted, signing Melton next year wouldn’t be easy given their tight salary cap restrictions, but then again that hasn’t stopped Jerry Jones before.
Henry Melton is undoubtedly a name to watch in NFL free agency next year. The longer he goes without an extension from Chicago, the more the Dallas Cowboys can and should pay attention.