Lost in all the Matt Forte and Brian Urlacher free agent talk is the player who might be the most important player on the Bears defense over the next decade, Henry Melton. Lovie Smith has stated publicly that the three technique DT is the most important position in his Tampa-2 defense and Henry Melton fills that role. Melton is also a free agent after the 2012 season and if he duplicates his 2011 performance or even improves upon it, his stock will go up dramatically.
Melton had seven sacks last year and was the second most productive pass rushing DT in the NFL last year behind only Geno Atkins. Melton showed flashes in his first full year playing in 2010 and was talked up prior to the 2011 season and did not disappoint. In only his second full year playing, his first full year starting Melton had 34 quarterback pressures to go with the seven sacks.
So the question now becomes why haven't we heard any talk about a Henry Melton extension? Why aren't the Bears getting a deal done with one of their best young rising stars on defense before his price tag jumps astronomically?
In addition to needed to extend Melton for financial reasons, the Bears need to extend him for depth purposes. The defensive tackle position only has three competent players on the roster at the moment after the loss of Amobi Okoye and the release of Anthony Adams.
The policy in the Chicago has always been to wait until the off-season before a player enters their final contract year to discuss contract extensions, and it was only violated once in the case of Devin Hester. Melton is in that time frame where he should be extended before the start of training camp. Melton signed the typical four year deal that draft picks selected after round one receive and is in the final year of his deal.
We know the importance of Brian Urlacher to the Bears as a future hall of famer, but Urlacher is 34-years-old and has maybe as much as three more years left as a top player. We know the importance of Matt Forte to the Bears given his success and production in Chicago. Running backs are a dime a dozen, and their importance is even less important now than it was a decade ago. Those two topics have already been covered extensively, now the Bears must make a move to sign Henry Melton to a contract extension.
Melton is the number one priority right now and the Bears should act like it. Pass rushing DTs are an extremely rare commodity and the Bears currently have on of the best in the NFL who will only get better.