The Chicago Bears are expected to use the franchise tag for the second consecutive season, but this time, they plan to use it on defensive tackle Henry Melton, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. That would mean that Melton is locked up for the 2013 season, barring some kind of long-term deal before he signs the tag tender.
Under the tag, Melton would earn $8.3 million in guaranteed money if he signs the one-year tender. That number comes from the average pay of the highest-paid players at the position.
It's a lot of money devoted to the defensive side of the ball, though, as Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs are all making north of $7 million. The total cap hit for all four, if Melton signs his tender, would be around $40.1 million in 2013 for the Bears.
Melton is worth it, though. He had seven sacks in 2011 on the interior, but he was a much better player in 2012, despite only coming up with six of them. He improved in his run stuffing and was great at occupying blockers when asked to do so. He made a lot of progress this past season and has earned the $8.3 million he'd make under the tender.
That being said, Melton is 26 years old and seemingly has a very bright future in the NFL. The Bears likely want to get him signed to a long term deal sooner rather than later. Players at his age usually don't get the tag and actually stick with it -- they usually are able to get a deal done.
At any rate, the Bears will have until July 15 to get Melton signed to a long term deal if that is their intention. If at any point Melton signs the tender, he will be locked into the contract for the 2013 season. But if the team gets a long term deal worked out before then, they can throw the franchise tag out.
Some of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league for 2013 include Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions ($12 million), Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($8 million), Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings ($7 million) and Tommy Kelly of the Oakland Raiders ($6.5 million).
As to whether or not Melton will get money similar to those guys, that's for the Bears to decide going forward. He has a lot of potential, but really only one truly top-flight season under his belt.