The Dallas Cowboys signed former-Bear Henry Melton yesterday. What kind of player did they get?
I can’t say I was familiar with Henry Melton, and when I first read about this deal, I assumed it was a Kenyon Coleman 2.0 type of signing, where a defensive coordinator brings in a middling defensive lineman who knows the system to help ease the transition. Now that I’ve read more, I’m coming to the conclusion that this deal is really, really, good.
In short: the Cowboys signed Melton to a 1 year, 2.25 million dollar deal with 1.25 million if he spends the entire season on the roster. He has an additional 1.5 million in incentives. The Cowboys have an option to extend that 3 more years with higher pay.
Should he be healthy, Melton will earn 3.5 million dollars this season, which begs the question: “What does 3.5 million dollars per season buy?”
Note: All averaged off of total contract, not guaranteed salary
These are the defensive tackles who have signed for around 3.5 million dollars per season (on average, +/- .5M) this offseason:
Vance Walker, 3.75M, Chiefs (3 years)
Clinton McDonald, 3M, Bucs (4 years)
Ziggy Hood, 4M, Jaguars (4 years)
Earl Mitchell, 4M, Dolphins (4 years) (NT so he’s not included)
(Thank you Walterfootball)
Looking at this list, it appears as if the Cowboys are the only one to give a one year, ~3.5M contract to a free agent DT so far. Obviously, this makes a perfect comparable rather difficult, but this list should be good enough.
Vance Walker: 26, starter, 29 combined tackles/3 sacks last year, 21 combined tackles/3 sacks in 2012
Clinton McDonald: 26, not a starter, 23 tackles/5.5 sacks last year, 17 tackles/0 sacks in 2012
Ziggy Hood: 27, started 7 games last year, 26 tackles/3 sacks last year, 25 tackles/3 sacks in 2012
Roughly, 3.5M buys either an average player or somewhat below that on a multi-year deal. The Vance Walker signing looks particularly good, but only the Hood contract, especially at 4 years, is a gross overpay.
Here is Henry Melton
Henry Melton: 26, starter, 32 tackles/6 sacks in 2012, 18 tackles/7 sacks in 2011, Pro-Bowl in 2012.
At least on the outset, the Cowboys got a steal. But there’s a reason I skipped 2013. Melton suffered a serious knee injury, an ACL tear, in late September and missed the rest of the year.
The contract, than, is really a “show me” contract, similar to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite contract in baseball. Unlike baseball players, Melton is basically guaranteed making the Show. Based on his previous performance, he will no doubt deserve it.
The Cowboys, as mentioned earlier, have a 3 year option should they like what they see out of Melton. To quote Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
What that means is if Melton returns to his 2011-to-2012 form — when he had 68 tackles and 13 sacks in two seasons before suffering an ACL injury in 2013 — he will remain on the Cowboys‘ roster. At that point his contract essentially will become a four-year deal worth $29 million with $14 million guaranteed, a person who has seen the deal told Rapoport.
I criticize Jerry Jones fairly consistently, usually for his horrible contracts, but this one is actually really good. Considering the alternatives (for a similar price) were an average starter on a 3 year deal, a draft bust, and a lottery ticket, a former Pro-Bowler is something of a heist.
I’m trying to find some issue I have with this and nothing is coming to me. Defensive line was a need, and the Cowboys filled it, cheaply, with a low-risk, high-reward player looking to get a big payday. Nicely done.