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Henry Melton likely to get Chicago Bears' franchise tag

Seven years after beginning his college career as a big-back complement to Jamaal Charles at the University of Texas, Henry Melton earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a defensive tackle with the Chicago Bears.

Faced with a roster chock full of defensive stars poised to enter their decline phase, general manager Phil Emery has a decision to make on a fast-rising impending free agent.

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The Chicago Tribune believes it's a "good bet" that Melton will be slapped with the $8.3 million franchise tag after leading the Bears with 24 quarterback pressures and arguably outplaying Julius Peppers in 2012.

New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker recently unveiled his plan for an "attacking, penetrating front" that will require Melton's inside penetration as a disruptive three-technique. "We're still playing the 4-3," Melton said. "There is not another better D-tackle in the league than myself. I feel like that."

NFL teams rarely let talented young, impact starters reach the open market when the franchise tag is a viable option. As one of the few defensive stars under the age-32 barrier, Melton has even greater value to the Bears.

If Emery opts against the franchise tag, Melton's home-state Dallas Cowboys would be happy to scoop him up as the ideal fit for the Warren Sapp role in Monte Kiffin's Tampa-2 defense.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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