A lot of fans have been criticizing the Chicago Bears‘ decision not to give defensive tackle Henry Melton a long-term, big-money deal this offseason. Instead, the 2012 Pro-Bowl tackle will be playing on the franchise tag — $8.45 million for his position — this year.
Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Melton.
No, but in all seriousness, GM Phil Emery was 100 percent right in making him show everyone more and that he deserves a major contract. Why do I feel this way? The 26-year-old has at times, shown some inconsistency.
Now, the main reason for this problem has to be that he was a running back up until he got to the NFL, but before I move on, let me show you how he’s been spotty.
The last two years, Melton has put up 13 sacks, a strong number indeed for his position. However, those sacks have come in only 11 of 29 games. A bit more troubling than not getting sacks, is how often his presence is not being felt at all. In 2011, Melton had 12 games in 15 starts where he recorded two or less tackles (four with zero). A year later, he had seven games in 14 starts (one with zero) where we see the same issue. Granted, he did show improvement in those two seasons.
That may not seem like a very big deal; most defensive tackles don’t get many tackles every week. But on the Bears’ defense, the three-technique is responsible for creating a lot of pressure and making many plays on the ball, at least when it’s played at a high level. And if you want to be given a five-year deal with $18 to $20 million guaranteed, as he reportedly wanted, then you need to prove you can play that position effectively nearly every game.
We saw the same thing with Tommie Harris. The Bears offered him a massive contract because he played great for a couple seasons, then they were stuck with him. Of course, a lot of that had to do with a severe hamstring injury in 2006 followed by knee problems that slowed him down, but nevertheless, that contract was a major liability until the guaranteed money had been paid off and they could cut him.
Teams make quarterbacks earn a major contract extension, and the Bears find themselves in that exact situation this year with Jay Cutler as well. If you can make a quarterback play out his contract and earn a deal, then you can certainly make a defensive tackle, and the same applies for franchise tags because teams have every right to use them and shouldn’t be seen in any negative light. After all, they’re saying you’re important with that “franchise” tag.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m pointing out his flaws, but when Melton is playing at a high level, you know it because he’s a dominant force. He’s made tremendous strides in just a few short years with the position change, and I anticipate that he will make even more of an impact this year.
He really is an interesting specimen having played running back up until the professional level, and that actually leads me to believe his body may hold up very well instead of having all those years at such a heavy weight prior. That alleviates some injury concerns in my eyes, but if he takes the next step and has an even better year in 2013 than the previous two, then the Bears will be much more comfortable offering one of their young up-and-coming stars a nice contract.
In the meantime, it seems that he isn’t too upset about the situation based on his recent comments, so I expect him to be just fine. In fact, I expect him to be more than fine, I expect him to have the best year of his career and establish that the flashes of dominance weren’t flukes.
Hopefully, next year, I’ll be writing a much different article titled, “Chicago Bears 100 percent correct in giving Henry Melton a long-term contract.”
Feel free to comment below on if you think the Bears made the right decision or not in declining to give Melton a long-term deal.