The Cowboys officially signed Henry Melton on Wednesday to what is essentially a one-year deal with a three-year club option that could be worth up to $29 million.
At his best, Melton is a dominating force at the 3-technique position against the run and pass. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Melton was sixth among defensive tackles in stops and had the seventh-highest grade for a defensive tackle during his last full season in 2012.
When Melton is really on a roll, you can see blockers have to reach for him to try and block. He can put them in bad positions with just his first step. He’ll make blockers overextend and lose their balance. He has a feel for how to make himself small when he is on the move in the pass rush.
He’s one of those players you want to play line games with because of this ability. The second you get him a little space, he is tight to pick and around the edge. In 2012, he had a sack against the Cowboys in that exact situation.
If Melton plays the same way he did in 2012 under Rod Marinelli's tutelage, then he is an upgrade over former Cowboy Jason Hatcher.
This was a brilliant move by the Cowboys because it gives them salary-cap space to make other moves in free agency.
While most of the game-changing free agents have already been signed, this does not mean the Cowboys can't find players that can give them depth.
According to OvertheCap.com, the Cowboys still have about $6.4 million in cap space. They may target a player like former Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton to help give depth to the defensive line.
Moreover, the Melton signing will give the Cowboys flexibility during the draft.
Before the Melton signing, the Cowboys had a huge hole at the technique position along their defensive line. The Cowboys would have had to draft a 3-technique early in the draft or risk having a major weakness along the defensive line.
However, this is no longer the case with Melton coming in to fill the void.
Now the Cowboys can pick the best player available without being hamstrung by any major needs. This does not mean the Cowboys won't pick a 3-technique such as Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald, if he were to fall to them.
With the Cowboys switching their defensive philosophy, they can now turn the defensive line to a strength through the draft. The Cowboys seem to be moving to the Seattle Seahawks philosophy of using their defensive linemen in waves. Done are the days of a couple of players playing the majority of snaps along the defensive line.
Melton is the building block the Cowboys needed to help rebuild the defensive line and, in turn, improve the defense. With an improved defense to go along with an already potent offense, the Cowboys have the ability to be a playoff team.
Dallas was one win away from the playoffs in 2013. While there is still work to do, the Melton signing brings the Cowboys one step closer to being a playoff team.