The loss of defensive tackle Henry Melton will be felt for many weeks to come in the Bears locker room. The three-technique specialist tore the ACL in his left knee in last weekend’s victory in Pittsburgh. His injury has created great concern about depth on the Bears defensive line. While the Bears may find a solution to replace Melton in the short-term, many are wondering what will happen to No. 69 in the long-term.
After this season, Melton will be a free agent. The Bears were unable to successfully negotiate a new contract for the Texas alum over the summer. Instead, Melton accepted this year’s franchise tag and signed an $8 million tender. That money is guaranteed to Melton, so the Bears have no choice but to pay him injured or not.
Once training camp started, Bears general manager Phil Emery vowed that he will not negotiate new contracts during the regular season. This puts Melton in an uneasy situation. After the franchise tender is paid up, there will be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 290-pounder. Since he has no financial commitment from the Bears, the injury he sustained means that the Bears probably won’t be in a hurry to re-sign him.
So what lies next for him? First he has to undergo surgery to repair the torn ligament. Then, he will have to undergo recovery and rehab. His agent says that he could resume full football activities by June. Of course that all depends on how well the recovery and rehab process goes and barring any setbacks. Once he is able to resume full non-contact workouts, Melton and his agent will then have to convince a team to sign him. The good thing is that Melton is still young. He’s only 27, and nine times out of ten, most players under the age of 30 tend to have quick recoveries.
He is also a defensive tackle with speed. He can be a very effective pass rusher in addition to stopping the run. He can also play defensive end and get some decent speed coming off the edges. Henry Melton has plenty to offer any team that is willing to have him. The biggest challenge will be convincing a franchise that his knee is healthy and that he can still play at a high level.
Of course if the free agent market doesn’t work out, that may increase his chances of returning to the Bears. From there, it’s only a matter of how much money Bears management is willing to send his way. Melton is just one of numerous free agents that the team will have heading into 2014. That list also includes Jay Cutler, Robbie Gould and Charles Tillman just to name a few. The franchise tag could once again be an option depending on how the Bears financial situation looks.
At the end of the day, there is no telling where Melton may end up. But what we do know is that his skill set on the field, and his presence in the locker room leaves a major void on this Bears team. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82