Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery took to the podium this morning at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. They were asked about a number of the team's current free agents, including backup quarterback Josh McCown and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton.
McCown played in eight games last season, with five starts, and compiled the third best QB rating in the NFL (109.0). He was also one of the league leaders in yards per attempt (8.17) and completion percentage (66.5), throwing 13 touchdowns and just one interception.
"We all said we want Josh. We want him to be a part of our football team. We recognize how important he is not just as the backup quarterback but as an influence in our locker room," Trestman said. "He's a great leader and he's great for our quarterback room as well, which is the most important room in the building. Josh has got the opportunity to look around. We want him to be able to do that. He deserves that right. And we'll see where this thing goes. But Josh is well aware how we feel about him and that we want him back."
It appears the Bears are going to do everything they can to keep McCown as the club's backup to Jay Cutler. Yet the market could be fruitful for McCown, who showed last season that, even at 34 years of age, he's still a viable NFL starter. If another team wants to throw starter money at him, it's going to be tough for the Bears to compete for his services.
Melton is also in the team's future plans. The team franchised him last season yet an ACL tear cut his season short after just two-plus contests. Still, the club is committed to bringing back Melton, who in 2012 finished second in the NFL in sacks (6.5) amongst defensive tackles and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
"We do want to bring back Henry," said Emery.
Melton was arrested after a drunken incident at a Texas bar in late December, which prompted Emery to call him out in his post-season press conference.
"Henry, he has got to fully dedicate himself to rehab," Emery said in January. "He has to fully dedicate his mind and his focus to football, which is extremely important."
When asked if he's seen Melton improve in that area, Emery responded: "He's making positive progress."
Trestman said Melton has lost weight and is progressing in his rehab.
"I see him every day. He's in the building every day (rehabbing)," said Trestman. "He's in a good place."
The Bears currently have roughly $5.5 million to spend under the projected 2014 salary cap, with $3.5 million earmarked for this year's draft picks. Obviously, if Emery wants any shot at re-signing Melton or McCown, he must find a way to clear up cap space.
One cut candidate is Julius Peppers, who is due more than $18 million next season. Yet Emery was mum on Peppers, saying only: "He's part of our team. He's under contract."
Trestman stated the team would also like to retain veteran center Roberto Garza, who will also become a free agent on March 11.
"We want Roberto back. He knows we want him back," said Trestman. "We believe he should finish his career with the Bears. He does so much in our community. He's such a leader in our locker room. He knows how we feel about him. We just need to let this thing evolve and hopefully it's going to work out best, number one for Roberto, because that's number one. And from his standpoint, and it should be, he deserves that respect. And hopefully it will work out for the Bears as well. We certainly want to see him back."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.