The Dallas Cowboys lost outside linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware to the Denver Broncos in free agency, and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to the Washington Redskins. On Tuesday night, they did a bit to make up for those losses by signing former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton to a one-year deal with options. ESPN's Adam Schefter was among the first to report the signing. The move had been expected for a while because Melton worked with current Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli during his time with the Chicago Bears.
"I'm excited to come back home and work with Rod and get back to my Pro Bowl form," Melton told ESPN Dallas. "It's a great group of guys there and I've talked to them the last few days."
Selected by Chicago in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by Chicago out of Texas, Melton made the Pro Bowl in 2012 with six sacks, two forced fumbles and 31 solo tackles. Marinelli was the Bears' defensive coordinator at that time.
Current Bears general manager Phil Emery said before the 2014 free agency period that he was interested in re-signing Melton, but had some questions about his commitment to the game. Melton played in just three games in 2013 after suffering a torn ACL. He was placed on injured reserve and was arrested last December for assault and public intoxication. He is being sued by the owner of a Texas bar for allegedly biting the man so hard near the kidney that hospitalization was required. The Bears had placed the franchise tag on Melton before the 2013 season, expecting great things.
"Obviously, he has some off-the-field issues that he needs to make sure that he's focused on football and having a passion for football," Emery said of Melton on Jan. 2. "The under-tackle position in the scheme that we're in is the engine that drives the defense," Emery said. "And when he was in the game, even though from a statistical standpoint he wasn't off to a fast start, it was very evident on tape that he was a very important part of the defense."
A healthy Melton would be a big free-agent chip for the Cowboys this late in the game. Dallas has been dealing with well-known cap issues for the last few seasons, and this move most likely indicates that the team's recent pursuit of defensive end Jared Allen won't happen. Grade: B. Melton will work well in Marinelli's defense because, like Hatcher, he can get quarterback pressure from multiple gaps. If he's healthy and keeps himself straight off the field, Melton can really help a Cowboys defensive line that's been shredded by unavoidable personnel churn.