Henry Melton is the most significant, successful position project of the Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli era. He has been molded into a solid defensive tackle by two of the finest defensive minds in the sport. But one thing should be made abundantly clear about Melton after three years playing defense for the Chicago Bears: he is not great…yet.
Great defensive tackles – specifically in the LoveRod system – register more than 6 or 7 sacks. Great defensive tackles take over games. Melton has rarely done that for more than a handful of plays.
To the best of my comprehension Phil Emery’s decision to have Melton play out the 2013 season on the Franchise Tag has no substantial downside. Let’s look at the potential outcomes of the coming campaign.
- Melton stinks. The Bears can write off his early success to the system and let someone else pick up his next tab under the dreaded “change of scenery” moniker. (See: Cowboys, Dallas or wherever Lovie lands in 2014.)
- Melton is mediocre. The Bears will have saved millions upon millions of dollars and have the opportunity to bring Melton back in 2014 for a severely discounted rate.
- Melton is good. The Bears have increased leverage as Melton can no longer demand top tier defensive tackle money. The organization could re-sign Melton and see a motivated player in 2014 and beyond.
- Melton is great. The Bears pay him. A lot. But let’s be honest here. “A lot” in 2014 won’t be much more than “a lot” today. Will the Bears have to pay MORE next off-season than they do this off-season? Yes. But that difference will be negligible when it comes to cap implications.
If Henry Melton turns into Warren Sapp and puts up a 12-14 sack season he will have won his contract standoff with the Bears. But the Bears will have most likely won a bunch of games as a result of his play. Would every Bears fan on earth not accept that tradeoff?