The Dallas Cowboys hope their weeklong pursuit of Chicago Bears free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton spills over into early next week.
Dallas has set up a free agent visit with Melton, according to a source, but the local product might not be on the market by the time he gets back home.
Melton started his free agent tour with a visit to Minnesota and was scheduled to visit with Seattle before he could finalize a day for a visit with the Cowboys.
Despite some interest in big-name defensive ends Julius Peppers and Jared Allen, the Cowboys have their sights set on reeling in Melton.
Peppers, 34, and Allen, who turns 32 in early April, are aging veterans, and the Cowboys just rid themselves of two defensive line starters in their 30s in end DeMarcus Ware and tackle Jason Hatcher. Additionally, Peppers and Allen aren’t likely to come cheap considering they have a combined 247 sacks in a combined 22 seasons.
With just more than $7 million in salary cap space available to them, the Cowboys can’t set the market value of any player. So they wait and hope that other teams don’t put the price out of reach.
If Melton can somehow make it across the United States and back to Texas without first signing a deal with another team, the Cowboys will sit down with the 27-year-old local product.
Melton, who played in high school at Grapevine and in college at Texas, and Peppers both played for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli while in Chicago.
Melton seems like a logical choice if the Cowboys can get him at the right price. He could step right in and start at the crucial 3-technique tackle spot in Marinelli’s 4-3 Tampa 2 defense. Melton has the speed that Marinelli and Monte Kiffin desire. He played some running back at Texas and ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the Longhorns’ pro day.
Melton reached the Pro Bowl in 2012 under Marinelli, recording 44 tackles and six sacks for the Bears. Melton had seven sacks in 2011.
Last season, with Marinelli coaching the Cowboys’ defensive line, Melton played in only three games for the Bears before tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament. Melton, who is coming off of left ACL surgery, played last season as the Bears’ franchised player at $8.5 million.
Melton was arrested for a DWI before the Longhorns’ 2007 season. And on Dec. 22, Melton was arrested for public intoxication and assault because of an incident at a downtown Grapevine bar.
Peppers, who had a $13.9 million salary and more than $18 million cap figure, was cut this week by the Bears. Peppers had seven sacks last season, but he had 30½ sacks in three seasons under Marinelli.