Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones readily acknowledges the low-risk, incentive-laden contract the team gave defensive tackle Henry Melton is pretty much unlike any it has ever done.
He credits the former Grapevine star for wanting to play close to home and be reunited with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who helped groom Melton in Chicago.
“I think it’s pretty unique,” Jones said Monday at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando. “I don’t remember the last one we did like this. But I like it. … If it all works out and he plays well — he is a young player — then there is a deal in place we can fall back on, and then we didn’t spend a year working with a guy and then maybe see him leave.”
The Cowboys also signed defensive tackle Terrell McClain and defensive end Jeremy Mincey. Jones said Mincey and McClain are good, solid football players who will improve the team’s depth and contribute like George Selvie and Nick Hayden did a year ago.
But he acknowledges the team needs a Pro Bowl-type performer on the line to maximize its potential. He thinks Melton can be that type of player.
“We need a few players now mixed in who have some juice,” Jones said. “We’ve got nice, hard-playing defensive linemen, but Melton can be that juice like Hatch [Jason Hatcher]. He can be the same type of guy.”
Melton, who is still rehabbing from a knee injury that caused him to miss 13 games last season with the Bears, signed a one-year deal with a three-year club option.
Melton received a $1 million signing bonus and will be paid a $1.25 million base salary in 2014. He also will get weekly roster bonuses of $78,125 maxing out at $1.25 million, according to league sources.
He has a chance to get $1.5 million more with incentives, including $750,000 in playing time incentives and $750,000 in sacks.
Melton has a chance to receive $250,000 if he plays in 50 percent of the snaps, $500,000 if he plays in 60 percent and $750,000 if he plays in 70 percent. He can get an extra $250,000 for six sacks, $500,000 for seven sacks and $750,000 for eight sacks.
It is the ultimate prove-it deal that has a payoff of a three-year contract extension, including $9 million in guaranteed money for 2015 if he’s on the roster on the first day of the league year and base salaries of $7.5 million in 2016 and 2017.
Jones said Melton’s willingness to craft such a unique deal was impressive and made the Cowboys want to do the deal even more.
Melton made the Pro Bowl in 2012 but admittedly didn’t play as well in 2013 — his first in the NFL without Marinelli, who left to join the Cowboys — even before the injury.
“That was part of it,” Jones said. “When we were looking at the deal, that was part of why we were leaning his way even more. He is dead set on betting on himself. He knows even before the injury he wasn’t playing his best football. I think he knows Rod is a good influence on him and he responds well to Rod, and he thinks this is a great place to get back on track.”