Henry Melton has had his ups and downs over the past two years. He was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and was looking to cash in on his great season. He and the Bears could not come to an agreement so the franchise tag was put on him. In 2013 he had a lackluster start before tearing his ACL (what is it with Chicago athletes and ACL’s?). Now he is in football limbo, a free agent coming off of a serious injury.
Many experts predict the Bears will go with a defensive tackle with their first round pick. If they are able to sign Melton, it opens up the world for them.
With the announcement that Shea McClellin will be moving to linebacker, and the fact that Julius Peppers is due to hit the salary cap to the tune of $18.183 million, the Bears could be in need of TWO starting defensive ends. Locking up Melton can allow the Bears to focus on that.
The Bears should do what they can to lock up Melton. They should look to do a “prove-it”-type deal. Give him a one year deal full of incentives to show he is fully recovered.
That type of contract is all the rage now in the NFL. Michael Bennett is one who had that type of deal with the Seattle Seahawks and is now getting ready to cash in.
Melton did not have a good end to 2013. He was arrested in December in a bar incident. Then in January, Phil Emery called him out. “Henry, in particular, he has got to fully dedicate himself to rehab. He has got to fully dedicate himself to rehab. He has to fully dedicate his mind and his focus to football, which is extremely important.”
Emery has softened since then. Speaking to reporters last Thursday before the start of the combine, he lauded Melton on his rehab saying he made “positive progress.”
Coach Marc Trestman was gushing about Melton (well, it was Trestman’s version of gushing). “If you see him, you’ll see that he has been training and he has been working. He’s very focused. You’ll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now.”
For his part, Melton feels the positive vibes from the team towards him. “All the coaches have said some real positive things. I am just waiting to see what is going to happen. I’m all for staying here.”
All this positivity bodes well for Melton. It seems all parties involved want Melton back with the Bears. Now if they can just get the numbers to balance…
Emery has done some pretty amazing things at the start of free agency in his short time with the Bears. He pulled off the Marshall trade in his first year. Last year he signed Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson, two players that helped turn a once horrible line to one of the best. He also signed Martellus Bennett to solidify the tight end position.
Whatever plan Emery has for March 11th, it should start with signing Henry Melton. After that, it will most likely be a surprise, most likely a pleasant surprise.