INDIANAPOLIS -- The Bears defense was decimated by a plethora of injuries in 2013, but no loss may have had a bigger impact on the club than a season-ending ACL tear to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton in a Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Melton, currently an unrestricted free agent, is expected to test the open market, and although Bears head coach Marc Trestman wouldn't talk specifics regarding contract talks with Melton, he praised his defensive tackle for the work he's done to get back in shape during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday morning.
Trestman stated that Melton has been working hard and is on schedule with his rehab process as the two have been in constant communication since the season ended.
“The update is that Henry’s a free agent," Trestman said. "I see him every day. I speak with him when he’s in the building. I spent some time with him [Wednesday] coincidentally and we spent 30-45 minutes together. He’s in the process, and hopefully on schedule, of his rehabilitation process.”
Despite reconstructive knee surgery, Melton will likely be highly sought after during free agency due to his youth -- 27-years-old -- and the scarcity of impact defensive lineman on the market. The Bears have made it known that they intend to rebuild their defense this offseason and general manager Phil Emery indicated he will need to get creative with a short list of defensive starters currently under contract.
The Bears used the franchise tag on Melton in 2013, but will not do so this season. Melton, one of the top defensive lineman in free agency, will be free to negotiate with other teams beginning March 8. Free agency officially begins on March 11.
Melton, a fourth-round draft choice by the Bears out of the University of Texas in 2009, has registered 66 tackles, 15.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in six seasons with the Bears.