Cowboys free agent debate: Henry Melton

With 20 players set to be restricted or unrestricted free agents, the Dallas Cowboys will have plenty of decisions to make on who to keep and who to let go.

Let’s take a look at the free agents to be and how they could fit into the Cowboys’ future:

Defensive tackle Henry Melton

Type: Unrestricted

What he did: After playing in just three games in 2013 for the Chicago Bears because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Cowboys signed Melton to a one-year deal with a three-year option. They have to let Melton know by Sunday if they pick up the final three years, which would guarantee him $9 million in 2015. When they don’t, he will be a free agent for the second straight offseason. Melton played in every game with three starts and finished second on the defense with five sacks. The coaches credited him with just 10 tackles, but he did have 17 quarterback pressures, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He suffered a bone bruise in his knee in the final regular-season game and was put on injured reserve, missing the playoffs. He said he never felt completely confident in his knee.

What he could do: He was a Pro Bowl selection for the Bears in 2012 and the Cowboys hoped reuniting him with Rod Marinelli would bring that form. It never happened in part because of his health. He was never a 60-snap-a-game player even in his best years in Chicago, when he had 13 sacks in 2011 and 2012. Marinelli wants to run his defensive line with a deep rotation, so if Melton comes back, he would be viewed as a backup to Tyrone Crawford as the three-technique.

What it should cost: Crawford’s ascension limited Melton’s snaps to some degree. He might be able to command more money elsewhere than the Cowboys want to give him, with other teams believing he will be better a second year since the ACL injury. There was a tension among the coaches with Melton at different times during the season that almost led to him being deactivated twice. If he comes back, it would likely be on a one-year deal with incentives, perhaps similar to the contract Anthony Spencer signed in 2014.

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