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Chicago has a decision to make with their Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Would they be willing to let him walk and draft a replacement?
The Chicago Bears might have more pressing needs than most teams coming off of a 10-6 season. The offensive line is still significantly behind where a team would want their offensive line to be at, tackle J'Marcus Webb is in trouble with the law, Brian Urlacher is an aging free agent, and there aren't many receiving options beyond Brandon Marshall. So would the Bears really draft a defensive tackle with the 20th overall pick?
If they let Henry Melton walk, it's a real possibility.
Melton is coming off of a career season and a trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 31 solo tackles and six sacks from the 3-tech position in Chicago. The 2009 fourth round pick is also an unrestricted free agent that could be in line for a big payday with several teams probably vying for his attention on the open market. If the Bears do allow him to walk, then it'll be another hole they might be looking to fill in the draft. If Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson slips in the draft and is available with the 20th pick, it might be too good for the Bears to pass up. That's what Rob Rang projects in his latest mock draft for CBS:
The Bears' most pressing need is clearly at offensive tackle not defensive tackle but with the top three pass blockers off the board, don't expect the team to reach. Instead, the Bears might look to Richardson as a potential replacement to Henry Melton, a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle who could be looking to break the bank as an unrestricted free agent after earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2012.
Of course, there's still the matter of deciding if Chicago would really let Melton walk. He's clearly their best free agent at this stage in his career, now that Urlacher is getting up there in years, and thanks to the franchise tag, the Bears can make it very difficult for one of their UFA's to walk away. That player almost certainly would be Melton if they decide to use their tag, and his salary (average of the top five defensive tackles) would be reasonable, all things considered. Then they could focus on filling another need in the first round of the draft.
If not, then Richardson would certainly be a good possibility.