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Bears put franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton

By giving Henry Meltfranchise tag Bears lowered their salary-cap space about $3 million. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

By giving Henry Melton the franchise tag, the Bears lowered their salary-cap space to about $3 million. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 3, 2013 6:18AM



While on vacation Friday, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton learned that the Bears were giving him the franchise tag.

Players often have a mixed reaction when they receive such news, but Melton was honored having entered the league in 2009 as a fourth-round pick. If he can’t work out a long-term deal by July 15, Melton will make $8.45 million for the 2013 season.

“It just feels good to be thought of so highly,” Melton told the Sun-Times. “Been a long road.”

Melton, 26, earned his first Pro Bowl berth after the 2012 season, when he finished with six sacks. That’s one fewer than in 2011, but he established himself as a more complete player, steadily pressuring the quarterback and defending the run better.

It’s the second consecutive offseason the Bears have used the franchise tag. Last year, it went to Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte, and he signed a long-term deal just before the mid-July deadline. The Bears hope to do that again.

“Henry has been a good player for us, and we are using the franchise tag so his development continues as a Bear,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said in a statement. “We will continue our conversations with Henry and work toward a multiyear agreement.”

That’s what Melton, who made $565,000 last season, is counting on.

“Now, [I] just want to get a long-term deal done and remain a Bear for years to come,” Melton said.

The challenge, of course, will be coming up with a number both sides can agree on.

The Bears worked out a four-year, $32 million contract with Forte by essentially guaranteeing him the franchise figure for two consecutive offseasons. For Melton, that would be $18.59 million because he’d command $10.14 million in 2014 if he’s franchise tagged again.

By committing to the franchise tag, the Bears have a little more
than $3 million in salary-cap space. Melton’s $8.45 million salary for 2013 makes him the fourth-highest-paid player behind defensive end Julius Peppers, receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The Bears will need between
$2 million and $3 million for their first- and second-round draft picks. That leaves them very little money for free agency.

But they can create significant room in a hurry by a relatively simple restructuring of Peppers’ deal, extending the contracts of players such as Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings or releasing or demanding a pay cut from players such as Kellen Davis and Devin Hester.



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