Melton had tweeted late Tuesday night that he had reached an agreement with the Cowboys, but the formal announcement from the team didn’t come until 3:25 pm this afternoon when all the legal matters were taken care of.
Melton was drafted in the fourth round (105th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft by Chicago, but an injured ankle suffered in the preseason landed him on Reserve/Injured for his rookie season. He returned in 2010 as a reserve defensive lineman and played in all 16 games. He finished the year with 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one pass breakup, a forced fumble, one fumble recovery and six special teams tackles.
He started all 15 games he played in 2011, missing one with a shin injury, and led all NFC defensive tackles with 7.0 sacks. He added 16 tackles with four for losses.
In 2012, he started the 14 games he played, missing two contests with a chest injury. He finished the year with 6.0 sacks, third in the NFL among defensive tackles, with 33 tackles, five for losses and two forced fumbles to earn his first career trip to the Pro Bowl.
He started the first three contests of 2013 and posted five tackles, two pressures and a fumble recovery before tearing his ACL in the fourth quarter of the Week 3 game at Pittsburgh and missing the remainder of the season.
Melton started his collegiate career at the University of Texas as a running back and switched to the defensive side midway through his Longhorns career. He played in 49 games (24 at defensive end, 25 at running back) and started 11 (10 at defensive end and one at running back). He tallied 40 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 11 tackles for losses, 20 pressures, three breakups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. On offense, he rushed for 625 yards and 16 touchdowns on 132 carries (4.7 avg.) in his first two seasons with the Longhorns.
Melton held a conference call at 4 pm this afternoon with media who regularly cover the Cowboys. He was asked if he was surprised the deal happened so quickly. “No, I figured it would get done sooner than later.”
He was also asked about the Dallas defense and his recovery status following his ACL surgery and rehab. “I believe in the Cowboys system. They have a lot of key components. We just have to trust one another. All the doctors have said it (the ACL) looked great. I should be ready to go by Training Camp. I just have to get mentally and physically ready, work my butt off and get ready to go.”
He responded positively when asked how confident he was that Dallas could get into the playoffs in 2014 after not having made the postseason party since 2009. “The team has just had a bad case of luck. I believe this team is just a couple of games away from making a run in the playoffs. I’m excited to play for him (Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli). He genuinely cares about you.”
He was also asked whether he feels that has new contract puts added pressure on him to perform, especially since he was coming to a defense that was the third worst in NFL history and that just lost two Pro Bowl players in Ware and Hatcher.
“I was part of a great defense in Chicago, but I still had a bulls eye on me there and it will be no different here.”
Just how good of a move this was by the Cowboys remains to be seen, but there is no doubt IF Melton can remain healthy for the entire season that he will be an impact player who can make a big difference in the team’s defensive performance in 2014.
Because of the salary cap issue, Dallas has been relatively quiet thus far in the free agency market. The only other major signee they have brought on board so far is former #1 Draft pick Brandon Weeden, formerly with the Cleveland Browns. Weeden is basically an insurance policy and is expected to be the third quarterback for the team.