In signing Henry Melton, the Dallas Cowboys managed to get Pro Bowl-caliber talent without putting a strain on their salary cap situation. Melton’s deal is essentially a one-year deal with a three-year option. This puts the Cowboys in the best possible situation.
After his season-ending early last year, health has been a major concern for Melton. If his health doesn’t hold up, then the Cowboys will opt out of the three-year option, preventing them from being stuck with an overpaid, injury-prone player. Even if Melton stays healthy but simply does not perform well, the Cowboys can opt out of the rest of his contract. This kind of contract presents the least amount of risk possible for the Cowboys, especially since they don’t have too much money committed in the first year.
If Melton stays healthy and performs at a high level, then the Cowboys will have to pay Melton substantially more money. Fortunately, one year from now, the Cowboys will be in a much better situation to pay him as they are carrying over $20 million is dead money. This contract is set up perfectly to accommodate the Cowboys’ salary cap situation.
Signing Melton also opens up more options in the draft for the Cowboys. As is stands now, the defensive line is no longer as much of a desperate need. It will allow the Cowboys to look at multiple options with the 16th pick, or even consider trading down given the depth of this class.
The best part of signing Melton is that he should be a formidable force for the Cowboys. He was a Pro Bowler his last full season, and now he’s reunited with his former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Marinelli surely had a significant role in signing Melton, and he has to be confident in this situation to take the kind of deal the Cowboys offered.
After seeing the kind of money Jason Hatcher and other free agent defensive lineman have received, Melton probably had an opportunity to receive more guaranteed money in his first season. Him agreeing to this kind of contract is betting on himself and with Marinelli coaching him, there can be high expectations of Melton.
If Melton proves that he can still perform and the Cowboys wrap him up for another three years, they will have the kind of defensive lineman that they will be able to build around in the draft. While Melton is not extremely young at 27 years old, he will only be 31 even if the Cowboys take him on for the full duration of the contract. That’s the current age of former Cowboys defensive lineman Hatcher.