Just over a week ago, it was assumed that outside linebacker Anthony Spencer would be an offseason priority of the Cowboys. His career season in 2012 will drive his price up as an unrestricted free agent, but I would have expected Dallas to offer something competitive if the 3-4 alignment was remaining as the base defense.
At the same time, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, an unrestricted free agent as well, probably didn’t create too much buzz amongst Cowboys fans who were already well into the process of looking towards the offseason.
But with the firing of Rob Ryan along with the hiring of both defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Marinelli, the climate of this particular offseason has changed dramatically.
At this point, Spencer looks like a player who’s going to have a new team next year. I wouldn’t completely rule out Spencer’s return to Dallas but history shows in several instances that both the 4-3 and Kiffin’s approach to it aren’t well suited for Spencer.
Marinelli’s primary task will be to generate penetration and disruption to opposing offensive lines at the point of attack. This means that some established ability at defensive tackle is going to be wanted—and quick.
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton could very well emerge as an offseason target of Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. At this point I believe anything is possible. A competitive billionaire who’s tired of losing can certainly spend some money and find resources if he really wants to.
Well, Jones wants to.
Melton will be difficult to pry away from Chicago but right now it’s hard to say exactly how Melton figures into the Bears future plans. With a new head coach of its own, Chicago remains undefined at the defensive coordinator position with only head coach Marc Trestman having been hired to replace Lovie Smith.
But Trestman is an offensive coach and the need for a coordinator is urgent and dire.
Let’s say that the Bears move in the direction of the 3-4 scheme, a possibility given the age of inside linebacker Brian Urlacher and other cogs on a Chicago defense that has been really good for years. Melton might not be best suited for this kind of defensive line.
The Bears could go anywhere from here and until a new defensive coordinator is named, it’s assumed that Melton fits anything Chicago wants to do—and rightly so.
Since Spencer figures to be a cap casualty along with veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins, you can see the savings that the Cowboys could acquire in arming up for the free agent signing period in March.
Jones will also try to restructure the contract of quarterback Tony Romo and maybe another player or two.
Should the Cowboys use free agency to add more pass pressure next season?
Jones could work trades, release players and who knows what else. They do really sell Victoria’s Secret stuff at Cowboys Stadium! Expect anything this offseason.
Melton would cost a ton but would be worth the money and commitment. He’s just getting into his prime years and his previous relationship with Marinelli could actually be a factor in his future plans. The two worked together quite well in Chicago but obviously Melton will have to move if they work together again this season.
Melton is a difference maker that the Cowboys have sorely lacked over numerous seasons. Players like defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and Spencer were never really able to take the heat off DeMarcus Ware in terrorizing opposing quarterbacks often enough to change games.
If you recall the style of defense run by the Cowboys back in the 1990s, you remember seeing more plays blown up in the opposing backfield than you’ve seen the last eight seasons. Melton would translate into a hybrid of defensive tackle Leon Lett and Tamp Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a front line enforcer when the Buccaneers blew up the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl a decade ago.
Marinelli wants pressure and Melton might be the way to get it.
The near future will reveal whether or not this possibility has much in the way of legs, but I can promise it has already been discussed.
Jones may have promised an “uncomfortable offseason,” but we can’t say it isn’t intriguing at the very least.