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Bears sack-leading defensive tackle Henry Melton wants to stay in Chicago

Bears tackle Henry Meltchases Carolinquarterback Cam Newtout pocket second quarter Chicago Bears-CarolinPanthers NFL game Sunday October 28 2012 Soldier Field.

Bears tackle Henry Melton chases Carolina quarterback Cam Newton out of the pocket in the second quarter of the Chicago Bears-Carolina Panthers NFL game Sunday October 28, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 10, 2012 6:32AM

Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, tied for the team lead with five sacks, doesn’t want to go anywhere after his four-year rookie contract expires at the end of the season.

“Everybody knows that we’ve got a good situation here, and I love the city, and I love the fan base,” Melton said. “I’d like to stay here for a long time.”

He declined to provide details on any negotiations, but Melton said he’s open to an in-season contract, something the Bears aren’t averse to, although they prefer to handle contracts during the offseason.

“This team definitely took a chance on me even when there were doubters,” Melton said. “Coach Lovie [Smith] and [Rod] Marinelli believed in me, so I’d like to get something done.”

An extension would secure one of the team’s bright young players and capitalize on excess salary-cap space.

Melton’s $2.2 million rookie deal pays him $565,000 this season. In addition to his five sacks, Melton also leads the Bears with 15 quarterback pressures.

Meanwhile, as the Bears enter the second half of the 2012 season, they have $4.2 million in salary-cap space, according to a league source. To account for any possible veterans they might need to sign because of injury, $1 million would suffice. That means there’s over $3 million in cap space available for a deal with Melton.

Another priority would appear to be quarterback Jay Cutler, whose contract expires after the 2013 season. But Cutler said on his weekly radio show that he didn’t want to have any in-season contract talks.

Contracts for defensive tackles, though, have proved tricky in recent years.

The highest paid at the position is Ravens four-time All-Pro Haloti Ngata, who has a five-year deal that averages $12.2 million per season and includes $37.1 million in guarantees.

More realistically, according to a league source, Melton may command a deal that averages between $5 million-$7 million. In March, the Rams signed Kendall Langford, who has 7½ career sacks, to a four-year contract worth $24 million, half of which was guaranteed.

If the Bears can’t come to an agreement with Melton during the season or offseason, they can put the franchise tag on him. That one-year deal is projected to be about $8 million for defensive tackles in 2013.

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