Henry Melton gets it.

The Pro Bowl defensive tackle might not have been pleased with how contract negotiations transpired this offseason, but he never publicly complained. He never openly discussed financial terms. And he never protested by not showing up for offseason workouts.

So when Melton and Bears failed to reach a long-term contract agreement before Monday's 3 p.m. deadline, it didn't catch Melton by surprise. He expected to play the 2013 season under the one-year franchise tender he signed (worth $8.45 million) considering the two sides were so far apart.

Where does it go from here?

"There are a lot of decisions to be made, especially after this season,'' Melton noted. "A lot of the defensive guys, their contracts are going to be up after the season. … Guys like Peanut (Tillman) and Major (Wright). There are just a ton of decisions to be made.''

If Melton continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, he could make it difficult for the Bears to prioritize their needs moving forward. Quarterback Jay Cutler likely would be at the top of the Bears' list, provided he plays up to his potential in this, the last year of his contract.

Sources said the team previously discussed giving Cutler a long-term deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million per season. But that was before Marc Trestman took over as head coach. Cutler is due to make $8.97 million this season.

If Cutler performs well, his contract demands might be high. Such a scenario might entice the Bears to use the franchise tag on him next season at a rate expected to be around $15 million for one year. It would be a more likely option than franchising Melton for a second straight season, at a cost of $10.14 million in 2014.

That's not to say Melton won't get paid. He will be a 27-year-old free agent after this season and could be a coveted player on the market.