By Adam Hoge-
A panel of 14 Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 players in terms of how important they will be in determining the success or failure of the 2013 Chicago Bears. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will unveil one of the 10 most important Bears each weekday as we countdown to training camp.
(CBS) For the second straight year, Henry Melton comes in at No. 9 on our list of the 10 most important Bears players.
Entering a contract year in 2012, the Bears were looking for the three-technique tackle to take his game to another level. He delivered with six sacks and upped his total tackles from 24 in 2011 to 44 in 2012. The results led to Melton’s first Pro Bowl selection as the former fourth round pick proved to be an effective pass rusher and became a more reliable run stuffer.
Now in his fifth season, the Bears are looking for more of the same from Melton. They placed the one-year franchise tender of $8.45 million on the defensive tackle, which means 2013 could essentially be another contract year for him. The Bears and Melton have until Monday (July 15) to work out a contract extension, which would give the team a little more cap room. Many assumed that would be something the Bears would want to do, but the team doesn’t appear to have any major moves left to make and, according to 670TheScore.com’s cap expert Dan Durkin, they currently have over $1.6 million remaining in cap space. Don’t forget that Melton missed two games late in the season last year, so it may be smarter for the Bears to be patient before locking up a defensive tackle already in his fifth year.
Either way, Melton will be making more money than he ever has before and it’s always fair with any player to wonder how that will affect production. The Bears are still operating out of their usual Cover-2 shell, which relies on a heavy pass rush from the inside. Sedrick Ellis was signed to be a part of the defensive tackle rotation, but there’s not a whole lot of depth at the position.
The Bears may be relying on Melton even more in 2013 and they need him to maintain his Pro Bowl level of play this season.
The 10 Most Important Bears Panel: Dan Hampton, Hub Arkush, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Nick Shepkowski, Herb Lawrence, Joe Ostrowski, Chris Tannehill, Adam Harris and Dan Durkin.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.