IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys agreed to terms with defensive tackle Henry Melton late tonight.
The contract is reportedly a one-year deal with a club option for three more, depending on Melton’s performance in 2014. The price figures to be a bit lower than expected for one of the league’s top defensive tackles, as Melton missed the majority of 2013 with an ACL injury. Financial details have not been disclosed, but Melton’s price tag would increase if he is brought back.
The deal brings Melton to Dallas from the Chicago Bears, who drafted him No. 101 overall in 2009.
The news makes Melton the Cowboys’ first big acquisition of free agency, after a tumultuous week saw the team part ways with Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Miles Austin at the outset of free agency.
The move means Melton, who is from nearby Grapevine, Texas, and is a University of Texas product, is not just returning to his home state, but is reuniting with former coach Rod Marinelli. The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator held the same position with the Chicago Bears, where he oversaw Melton’s lone Pro Bowl season in 2012.
Melton will take Hatcher’s place as the three-technique defensive tackle in Marinelli’s 4-3 defensive front. The five-year veteran enjoyed the best years of his career from that spot, compiling a total of 68 tackles and 13 sacks in 2012 and 2013.
The injury ended Melton’s 2013 season in Week 3, as he was carted off the field during Chicago’s 40-23 win against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.
The three-technique is the motor of Marinelli’s pass rush, to paraphrase the man himself. His purpose is to collapse the pocket and get to the quarterback, as evidenced by Hatcher in his first season playing for Marinelli and then-defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
With Hatcher entering free agency, it was widely speculated the Cowboys would pursue Marinelli’s old player, who many thought could be added for a lower price because of the injury. When the Cowboys released Ware and Hatcher signed a four-year, $27 million contract with Washington, the pressure to secure a pass rusher increased.
It remains to be seen how the addition of Melton affects the team’s pursuit of All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who visited Valley Ranch today. The Cowboys have roughly $7 million in salary cap room to work with, so signing both could be feasible given the right deals.
Allen returned to Minnesota on Tuesday to be with his family, as his wife is expecting the couple’s second child.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys agree to one-year deal with DT Henry Melton
The Dallas Cowboys and Henry Melton have agreed to a one-year deal with an option. Melton’s signing will ease the sting of losing Jason Hatcher last week.
The Grapevine product arrived for a visit yesterday. He had dinner with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli last night. Though he left for St. Louis today without a contract, it didn’t take the Dallas Cowboys long to get him in the fold.
Melton revealed his choice on Twitter, “Thank you Chicago for the best 5 years of my life!…. I can’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life… With a star on my helmet.”
Melton, 27, played only three games last season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee in October. But in four seasons, he has 15.5 sacks.
Melton replaces Hatcher, who signed with the Redskins last week, having played the three-technique for Marinelli when Marinelli was defensive coordinator of the Bears. Melton earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012 playing for Marinelli, and the Bears used the franchise tag on Melton in 2013, paying him $8.45 million.
The former UT product’s signing is good news for the Cowboys.
Jarod Allen left Valley Ranch without a contract and returned home to discuss his options with his wife. But with Melton on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys chances of improving their pass rush, and their defense, have improved.