Bears Improve but Invite Trouble with Forte
by Carlos Nazario
I wrote earlier how Phil Emery made a great first impression on Bears fans by making moves that have filled holes that have been there for years. He brought in new players and re-signed the team’s own key players and brought serious excitement to Chicago.
One key signing that has not been done as of yet is that of Matt Forte. He was franchised this season, which means he will make $7.7 million this season. It seems like a good deal, but it is only for one season. Forte is looking for something more definitive, something like the contracts other backs like Chris Johnson or Arian Foster received.
In the last 3 seasons, the Bears have paid a total of $20.3 million to other backs (Chester Taylor, Kevin Jones, and Marion Barber) to complement Forte. He has done everything the Bears have asked him to do. Before his season ended last year, he was both the leading rusher AND leading receiver. Now he is just asking for the Bears to reward him.
Instead, the Bears went out and overpaid for another back. They signed Michael Bush, giving him $7 million guaranteed. Several teams were looking at Bush, including the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots, but were not willing to guarantee that amount of money.
Forte was frustrated and he went to Twitter to express it.
“There's only so many times a man who has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last.... for the record I'm not mad at the signing of another running back. This is 4th time that's happened. I embrace competition as well as help ... But as for not taking care of your own and undervaluing a player under his market value is another story! Just Keeping it real...hate it or love it"
In the 4 seasons since he came to the league, Forte ranks 5th in total yards from scrimmage with 6,218 yards. He is looking for a multi-year contract that reflects that. The Bears have balked and used the franchise tag so they could keep him another year.
The Bears can franchise him another 2 times, but the amount of guaranteed money goes up drastically. If they do it again for the 2013 season, they will have to pay him $9.24 million. Another season of the franchise will raise the amount to $13.3 million.
I do not see the Bears giving Forte $30.24 million in guaranteed money. They offered him a contract worth about $13-14 million guaranteed, which Forte rejected. The contract offered was similar to the San Francisco 49ers’ Frank Gore, who was 28 years old (2 years younger than Forte), has fewer yards, and has had multiple knee surgeries and a fractured hip.
Unless they come to terms by July, Forte will only have that franchise contract. He will have to sign it and play because in the new CBA players that hold out do not receive credit for time away from the field due to a holdout. If he sits out, he would still be in the same position a year later. So he should grin and bear it for another season. At season’s end, the Bears will have to decide whether they want to franchise Forte once again, this time at a higher salary, which is highly doubtful. As a free agent, I am sure there will be several teams looking to obtain Forte’s services. It is a shame that the Bears have him and decided they do not want him.