Henry Melton wants to stay in Chicago, and the Bears want the Pro Bowl defensive tackle to anchor the line for years to come.

But will the sides come to a long-term deal before the start of the next season? Friday was the first step in the process.

The Bears placed an NFL franchise tag on Melton -- as expected -- at a price of $8.45 million for one year. The move buys some time as the Bears and Melton's agent, Jordan Woy, now have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal.

Although both parties are far apart in their negotiations, Melton does not feel slighted, at least not publicly.

"I've just come a long way, and it feels good to be this high on people's list of players in the NFL,'' the four-year veteran said Friday.

General manager Phil Emery expressed his high regard for Melton.

"Henry has been a good player for us and we are using the franchise tag so his development continues as a Bear," Emery said on the team's website. "We will continue our conversations with Henry and work toward a multiyear agreement."

Melton wants at least a five-year deal, and a long-term contract would be more cap-friendly for the Bears. If the Bears were to tag him again for 2014, the two-year total would be $18.59 million and that figure could be about what Melton is seeking guaranteed in a longer deal.

As of right now, the Bears stand about $3.5 million below the 2013 cap of $123 million based on the $8.45 million committed to Melton. - See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/chi-henry-melton-chicago-bears-franchise-tag-20130301,0,27030.story#sthash.p4O3RSSm.dpuf