This is the time of year when football decisions aren’t made in a vacuum, and money can matter more than anything that happens between the lines.
So while it seems obvious that the Bears would want to do what it takes to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton, doing so would require them to tie up nearly a third of the salary cap on four defensive starters, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
They’d obviously prefer to get a long-term deal with Melton before they had to use the $8.3 million franchise tag, but that’s far from a given.
But they also can’t afford to let an ascending 26-year-old player walk away for nothing, considering the defense they want to run.
Melton has 13 sacks the last two seasons, and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance this year. Since new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker talked about having an “attacking, penetrating front,” it seems apparent having a player like Melton is a requirement.
But they also defensive end Julius Peppers ($16.4 million), cornerback Charles Tillman ($8 million) and linebacker Lance Briggs ($7.4 million) carrying big numbers, meaning a tag for Melton would push the hit for those four to more than $40 million.
And Melton doesn’t sound inclined to offer any discounts.
“We’re still playing the 4-3 … there is not another better D-tackle in the league than myself,” Melton said late last season. “I feel like that.”
We’ll find out in the 15-day period for tagging players which begins Monday whether the Bears value him similarly, and whether that pressure causes them to work harder on a long-term deal.