But they also can’t afford to let an ascending 26-year-old player walk away for nothing, considering the defense they want to run.
Melton has 13 sacks the last two seasons, and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance this year. Since new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker talked about having an “attacking, penetrating front,” it seems apparent having a player like Melton is a requirement.
But they also have defensive end Julius Peppers ($16.4 million), cornerback Charles Tillman ($8 million) and linebacker Lance Briggs ($7.4 million) carrying big numbers, meaning a tag for Melton would push the hit for those four to more than $40 million.
And Melton doesn’t sound inclined to offer any discounts.
“We’re still playing the 4-3 … there is not another better D-tackle in the league than myself,” Melton said late last season. “I feel like that.”
We’ll find out in the 15-day period for tagging players which begins Monday whether the Bears value him similarly, and whether that pressure causes them to work harder on a long-term deal.
For more on this story visit: Darin Gantt, NBC Sports Pro Football Talk