The time is quickly approaching for the Chicago Bears to make a big money decision when it comes to pro bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton. Melton is a free agent and could hit the market when free agency opens next month if the Bears do not decide to apply the franchise tag to Melton. However the money to franchise Melton is very high. For 2013 a franchised NFL defensive tackle would receive $8.306 million. This number makes the Bears decision that much more difficult.
Pro- The Bears would be able to push off worrying about defensive tackle for one more year. The Bears have a couple of glaring needs that will take more than one player to fix, positions that have to be addressed like offensive line, tight end, and linebacker. With Melton locked up the Bears will be able to retain all of their defensive Pro Bowlers heading into a very pivotal 2013 NFL season. Having all four pro bowlers returning on defense should make the Bears a dominant defense again in 2012.
Con- The $8.306 number is awfully high for a defensive tackle. While it would be nice to keep Melton around that number is a very tough pill to swallow. With the salary cap being set at $121 million for 2013, Melton would take up just under 10% of the Bears overall salary cap space. While I believe that the Bears are not very far away from being a Super Bowl team, I still believe that a few key additions would put the Bears over the top. Paying Melton that kind of money could heavily restrict the Bears from making all the additions needed to reach that next level.
Pro-The possibility of keeping Melton long term increases by tagging him. While Melton may not be happy to receive the franchise tag, it also shows a commitment by the Bears to keep Melton long term. Melton has regarded himself as the top defensive tackle in the game, and no doubt wants to be paid like it. When looking at this team Melton has to see they are close to taking that next step, so the possibility of winning a title and being able to stay with the team that drafted him should be very ability.
Con-Was Melton simply a one year wonder? This is another factor that the Bears will need to consider when making this decision: Melton was a running back during his time at the University of Texas only converting to defensive tackle after being drafted by the Bears. While he had shown flashes of the talent he possessed in his first few seasons with the Bears, he never truly broke out and showed true dominance until 2012. Coincidentally this was also the final year remaining on Melton’s rookie deal. Do the Bears really want to commit that kind of money to a player they are not even sure will repeat his 2012 performance?
All in all this will be the most difficult decision in Phil Emery’s short tenure as the Bears general manager. While the Bears have until March 4th to decide what they are going to do with Henry Melton, I have a feeling you won’t hear a decision until right around the deadline of what they are going to do. I for one see the Bears using the tag to show a bit of stability during an off season full of change. Then again, the Bears have surprised me before.