Time is running out between the Chicago Bears and free-agent-to-be Henry Melton. The deadline for the Bears to tag Melton is Monday March 4th. Despite the Bears’ limited cap space and numerous needs, a lot of experts think the Bears will slap the old tag on Hank the Tank.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal ranked the top 85 free agents on the market and Melton was ranked #3 overall, placed in the TIER 1: Never Going to Get Them category. Here’s what Rosenthal had to say in his blurb on the Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle:
3) Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears: Melton is a rare commodity: a disruptive 26-year-old interior rusher who is only getting better. The Bears know they can’t let him leave, so he should be tagged.
That’s pretty high praise for Melton, who’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. He’s combined for 13 sacks over the last two seasons; not too shabby from an interior pass rusher.
The big question for me is whether Melton will fit into Mel Tucker’s new defense. We’ve been led to believe that the Bears will keep the same Lovie Smith Cover-2 defense, but if the Bears try to move away from a 1-gap system to a 2-gap system, Melton might not be the best fit for that type of system.
If the Bears choose to tag Melton by Monday’s deadline, they’ll have to cough up about $8.3 million and will need to do some finessing to stay under the salary cap. Using up more than 75% of their projected cap space on one player will certainly have some limitations heading into the rest of free agency.
Don’t forget that last offseason, the Bears tagged Matt Forte only to sign him to a long-term deal before training camp started. Stay tuned to see how this situation plays out. Free agency is right around the corner!