I'm not suggesting that Okoye is Suh or deserves any price to retain him, but we would benefit from keeping him if possible. You can call him a "backup" if you want but he played almost as many snaps as Melton so he's really almost a co-starter in the rotation. It's not like there's a lot of 26y/o, experienced DTs out there to sign who've proven thay can get to the passer and fit in our scheme.
He's not a must necessity, but we would definitely be better with him.
That is because Melton missed several games with injury
I'm in the camp of paying Okoye as high as ordinary DT starter money if needed since he does play starter-DT number of snaps and (ask Sox said) he is both leverage and insurance in the Melton negotiations. It is possible that some other one-gap team will offer him Good-Starter money and that that would lure him away but he is very valuable. The worry about Melton is he shows hints of 'head case' either laziness or something. If he is signed to a long term big money contract will he continue to produce? Okoye is tested in that situation (big rook contract) and DID work hard (in Texas).
I would be fully content with a resigning of Okoye and no 1st round DE. Melton, I thought, was at least an interesting rush DE, as perhaps Okoye could be. Drafting a good but one-dimensional pass rush DE might be possible in later rounds ... I ultimate hope would be a MLB-of-the-future type how could pass rush from the DE spot (for that I *would* be willing to use the first round pick). The prototype of this is, of course, Mr Brian U. Reports from training camp are of how awesome he is as a pass rusher (and/or how he 'panics' the poor slob who has to look bad in training camp trying to block him in pass rushing drills). The bears would have to be outstandingly lucky to do THAT well again, but that is the prototype. If Mr. MLB-of-the future turns out not to be a quality rush-only DE he still could be a fine pick ... and might well make a good SLB in the base defense.
The money to sign Okoye? Perhaps, go ahead and use most of the remaining about 5 Mil (leaving 4/5 for the rookies) on him .... or (my preference) trade Forte for whatever pick you can get and use the pick (and cheap FAs) to fill in the back-up running back spot(s). (I won't repeat my previous posts on how I thought Forte was no better than Bush and only a little better than Barber/Bell [empty calories yards, too few TDs, unproductive in red zone, etc.] ... this allows the Bears to get very active in the late, cheap FA signing market (CB, third WR competition, Safety, LB). Admittedly, I am nearly alone in this corner. :-)
If Rod could develop guys a bit more (although Melton is coming around) I don't see it as a big of an issue. However, with an aging D and the need of DE's I still believe it's critical we keep Okoye. Paea goes down or something there is no backup NT or 3tech. Sure we can draft a guy but the production is going to be much less for a rook unless you spend a higher pick on the situation.
Say Okoye doesn't sign. You need DE, DT, LB, CB, SS to at least help re-fortify. Hell, then it could be like another JA draft. How much does that effect not getting a OL? I would think that would have to factor into the equation at least somewhat. I still say dump Spaeth and use that money. Doubt it will happen though.
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.