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June 18, 2014

Return to form for Melton isn't a gamble for Cowboys, in Stephen Jones' mind

Stephen Jones acknowledges the Cowboys are gambling on a handful of players to improve the defense this year.

But Henry Melton, despite his repaired knee, is not one of them.

“That isn’t really a bet,” Jones said. “His timetable says he will be back. He had the surgery, and we all know what ACLs are.”

But Jones, speaking to reporters Wednesday at Valley Ranch on the second day of a three-day minicamp, agreed the Cowboys need to hit on Melton, their top free agent signing of the offseason, if they are going to have a better defensive line this year than last year, when the franchise wound up with the worst defense in its history.

“Oh, my goodness. Obviously, we paid him some money, and we’re counting on him,” Jones said. “Could be something you criticize us for -- ‘They should’ve never bet on him,’ if it doesn’t work out. But if it does ... ”

Jones said his confidence in Melton’s return to form is made stronger by the presence of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Melton’s coach in Chicago.

“Not only has he proven himself in the league as a Pro Bowler, he proved it under this coach and this system,” Jones said. “So that made a huge difference for us. It’s not like we’re betting on some guy that, ‘OK, Rod’s going to make him better because he’s Rod.’ We saw how Henry played under Rod in this system. The only difference is he’s coming off an ACL. But he should be to be healthy based on what our doctors say and based on how he’s progressing.”

Jones said he personally would have liked to roll the dice one more time on DeMarcus Ware, who left in free agency for Denver following an injury-filled 2013 with the Cowboys.

“There’s no one that thinks more of DeMarcus Ware and would like to bet on him one more time than me,” Jones said. “This guy is one of the all-time greats to ever put on a Cowboys uniform. But at some point, you’ve got to start saying, ‘Hey, the money and the age, and how long are you going to keep going there?’ ”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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