The Bears can play tag with Henry Melton beginning Monday, a measure that would ensure the defensive tackle remains in place for 2013.
NFL teams have from Monday through March 4 to apply the franchise tag in advance of free agency and the start of the new league year March 12. Barring a multi-year contract for Melton, it seems like a good bet general manager Phil Emery will elect to use the franchise tag for the second consecutive year after applying it to running back Matt Forte in 2012. Doing so could lock up nearly one-third of the team's salary cap in four defensive stars, though.
The goal with Forte was to sign him to a long-term contract and the sides hammered that out with a four-year deal before the July deadline. Emery could choose a similar path with Melton, who would be guaranteed $8.3 million if he is tagged and signs the one-year tender.
Melton had a career-high seven sacks in 2011 and followed up with six in 2012 but he was a much more complete player last season and made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He defended the run better and finished with 33 tackles, a team-high 24 quarterback pressures, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker unveiled his vision Thursday for an "attacking, penetrating front" while maintaining the Cover-2 scheme the Bears have used the previous nine seasons under Lovie Smith. That defense will not work effectively without a disruptive three-technique tackle of the type the 26-year-old Melton has become since being selected as a defensive end in the NFL draft's fourth round in 2009.
Tag in play for Bears, Melton on Monday
Chicago Tribune | Feb 16