Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has been known to take a methodical approach when it comes to signing players via free agency, but that approach may have just cost him a good player. Defensive lineman Henry Melton spent the first five years of his career with the Bears after the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Melton tore his ACL in Week 3 last season after being voted to the Pro Bowl in 2012. On Tuesday, Melton signed a one-year deal, with options for three more, with the Dallas Cowboys.
As was first reported by Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, Melton was not happy with the Bears’ approach to his free agency. Both Emery and head coach Marc Trestman expressed their desire to have Melton back next season heading into the free agency period, though according to Melton, “We gave them a chance to make an offer, and they said they would wait to see what the market was and we don’t do business like that,” Melton said. “They dropped out early.”
If this is indeed the case then Emery’s pragmatic approach seems to have backfired this time. Emery used this same approach with veteran cornerback Charles Tillman, though with a very different result. Upon meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and not being offered a contract from his former head coach Lovie Smith, Tillman realized he was not going to garner the same offers he had hoped for and returned to the Bears, who were able to sign him for less than Tillman’s initial asking price. This case was a home run for Emery and Co. However, when the same strategy is used with a young, Pro Bowl caliber player, even if he is coming off an injury, there is always going to be interest from other teams. Emery should be hoping for Melton to under preform this season or else he could end up having to answer some tough questions as to why he never even tried to bring Melton back.
For now most fans will support Emery’s decision making process because of his success in engineering an amazing offensive turnaround last year. Though if the team does not add more defensive help or under preforms again this upcoming season, his pragmatic decision making should start to be questioned.