No extension, just retention for Bears DT Henry Melton
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com July 15, 2013 8:48PM
The Bears Henry Melton stops the Seahawks Russell Wilson from getting outside the pocket during the third quarter at Soldier Field December 2, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 17, 2013 6:38AM
Unlike last season when running back Matt Forte agreed on a last-minute, multiyear contract, defensive tackle Henry Melton didn’t get a deal worked out and is facing another contract year.
In other words, welcome to the club, Henry.
By not getting a multiyear extension Monday, Melton joins a long list of Bears playing out the 2013 season in the last — or only — year on their contracts.
It’s quite a notable list of starters and stars, actually.
It includes quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, kicker Robbie Gould, safety Major Wright, kick returner Devin Hester, defensive end Corey Wootton and offensive linemen Roberto Garza and J’Marcus Webb, among others.
The Bears also signed a number of players to one-year deals this offseason, including linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams.
And while that could make for plenty of motivated players, it also hints at big decisions — and perhaps big changes — that loom for the Bears after this coming season.
It has been said that it’s a make-or-break season for Cutler, especially with noted QB guru Marc Trestman as coach, but he’s apparently not alone. Not everyone will be coming back for 2014.
The Bears had until 3 p.m. Monday to reach a deal with Melton and his agent, Jordan Woy. But by Monday morning, NFL sources confirmed that Melton will play out 2013 on his one-year franchise tender, which he signed in March, and wouldn’t be getting a multiyear deal before the deadline.
So where does all this leave Melton?
On the field, Melton remains a critical piece of the defense, but the Bears will be looking at how things shake out in 2013 before deciding on whom to commit to.
Melton will make $8.45 million — the fifth-highest amount on the team — and could see the Bears apply the franchise tag next year, too.
At 26, Melton has blossomed as the team’s three-technique tackle and was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.
It’s hard to find athletic interior pass rushers such as Melton, who has steadily improved against the run, too.
He was tied for third among NFL defensive tackles last season with six sacks and had a team-high 24 hurries despite missing two games with a collarbone injury. Melton forced two fumbles and had five tackles for loss.
The Bears are relatively thin at defensive tackle. Melton and Stephen Paea are entrenched as the starters, but after that, there are questions.
Nate Collins was re-signed to a one-year deal and six-year veteran Sedrick Ellis was brought in on a one-year contract. The Bears signed undrafted free agents Zach Minter and Brent Russell after the draft in April, and Christian Tupou and Corvey Irvin were signed after trying out at rookie camp in May.
So it’s easy to see that Melton remains important to general manager Phil Emery and Co. If he has another Pro Bowl-caliber season, he’ll be even more essential.