By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys and former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton have reportedly agreed to terms on a contract for 2014.
The deal would reunite Melton with his former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who is now the Cowboys defensive coordinator. Melton announced the agreement on his Twitter feed, saying “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 fills an immediate need for Dallas, which needs a replacement for Jason Hatcher at the three-technique tackle position. Hatcher led the Cowboys with 11 sacks last year and earned his first Pro Bowl berth, but he signed a $27 million deal with Washington last week.
Melton will likely be the starter at Hatcher’s position, assuming his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament continues with no setbacks. He tore it in the Bears’ fourth game of last season and missed the rest of 2013. He played last season on a franchise tag contract of $8.45 million.
Melton’s signing comes with some off-field baggage, in addition to his knee issues. He was arrested for assault and public intoxication related to a fight at a Grapevine bar. Melton is from Grapevine and played at the University of Texas.
Melton joined the Bears in 2010 as a rookie, the same year that Marinelli was elevated to defensive coordinator. For the next three seasons Melton manned the interior of the Bears’ defensive line, as he slid over to the three-technique after his rookie season.
In 2011 and 2012 Melton started 29 games and registered 13 of his 15.5 career sacks. His 2012 season included six sacks and his only Pro Bowl berth. Marinelli was let go from the Bears after the 2012 season when head coach Lovie Smith was fired.
Melton also met with St. Louis, Minnesota and Seattle. He is the third defensive lineman signed by Dallas so far this offseason, including Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, as the Cowboys try to shore up the weakest part of their defense.
Along with Hatcher, the Cowboys have also lost DeMarcus Ware, whom the Cowboys released and later watched sign with Denver.
The Cowboys have another iron in the fire as the met all day Tuesday with former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen came to Dallas after a meeting with Seattle.