Sando defines a “must sign” player as someone who “the team would automatically retain with the franchis tag“.
Melton was considered one of the better interior lineman in the league after posting 13 sacks combined in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. A converted running back at the University of Texas, Melton played the crucial “under-tackle” position in the Bears defensive front, which requires a quick, penetrating interior presence. Melton’s value to the team was evident, as the Bears placed the franchise tag on him after last season, valued at $8.45 million for one year.
Melton’s value has taken a major hit, after tearing his ACL in the third game of this season. He is expected to be ready to practice by May, but the injury raises questions about his ability to maintain his quickness. Additionally, Melton was arrested on December 21st for assault and public intoxication, which may also hurt his value.
Bears GM Phil Emery has made it clear that his focus this offseason is on bringing in dynamic players on the defensive side of the ball. Melton would appear to fit that bill, particularly considering Emery’s preference for dynamic players and the fact that the Bears run defense was the worst in the league.
Financial constraints may prevent such a reunion however. Considering the questions surrounding Melton, Chicago may view their other free agents at the position — Jay Ratliff, Nate Collins, and Landon Cohen –– as more reasonably priced options.
The team currently projected to have around $5.5 million in available cap space according to Overthecap.com, but that number is widely expected to rise after potential salary cuts such as DE Julius Peppers, RB Michael Bush, and WR Earl Bennett.