Prior to Wednesday, there were 20-plus players slated to be unrestricted free agents on Mar. 11 for the Chicago Bears. Yesterday, the Bears whittled that laundry list down even more when they re-signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to a new two-year deal. Ratliff is the tenth player that Chicago has given a new contract to.
With Ratliff officially staying in the Windy City for a while, what does that mean for fellow defensive tackle Henry Melton?
The Bears brought in Ratliff in November of last year after Melton and defensive tackle Nate Collins were put on injured reserve. Melton and Collins both tore their ACLs and are looking to come back stronger than ever in 2014 after vigorous rehabilitation.
Melton, who made the Pro Bowl in 2012, will be one of the most sought-after free agents on Mar. 11 and could cost a pretty penny. Knowing this, the Bears may be tempted to offer the five-year veteran a big contract, therefore, leaving little money to spend elsewhere.
On the other hand, Collins, who is also a five-year veteran, could possibly be re-signed for about the same amount he made in 2013 ($630,000). If Chicago does decide to bring back Collins and cut ties with Melton, then that will leave much more cap space for other potential free agents. More importantly, it will make drafting a defensive tackle with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft their top priority.
The combination of Melton and Collins in the interior part of the defensive line could be a productive one. However, I think that it is a bit risky to gamble on not one, but two reconstructed ACLs along that starting D-line. Having Ratliff, Collins and a rookie like Timmy Jernigan, Louis Nix III or Aaron Donald in the rotation on the front line could give the Bears’ defense enough production and be better for the organization from a financial standpoint.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.