Since he came into the NFL in 2008, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has been one of the NFL's most productive and versatile players. Not only has he rushed for 4,233 yards and 21 touchdowns on 1,014 carries, he's also caught 223 passes for 1,985 yards and eight touchdowns in an offense that has often asked him to be the Bears' most reliable (and sometime only legitimate) receiver.
However, Forte and the Bears have been playing contract footsie for quite some time, and the team's Thursday signing of former Oakland Raiders power back Michael Bush to a four-year, apparently didn't help the situation. In lieu of a long-term deal with Forte, the Bears slapped the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing the Tulane alum $7.74 million in the 2012 season. But between Bush's new deal -- which could net up to $14 million -- and the franchise designation -- Forte feels very out of place. After the Bush deal was made public, Forte turned to his Twitter account to make his feelings known.
There's only so many times a man that 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 ur own and undervaluing a player under his market value is another story! #twitterrant"
"I can understand where the guy's coming from," Bush said. "Everything they've asked for, he's done. It's one of those things where you want to be rewarded for your success. I understand, but that has nothing to do with me. It'll be great working with him."
The Bears had tried to come to terms with Forte before placing the franchise designation on him. Former general manager Jerry Angelo had offered Forte a contract that would have guaranteed him anywhere from $13 million to $14 million. After those offers were rejected, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans and Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks signed contracts with guaranteed money -- Lynch got $18 million guaranteed, and Foster received $20.75 million. New Bears GM Phil Emery and longtime head coach Lovie Smith have each said that the team is very interested in signing Forte to a long-term deal, but obviously, the value discussions keep going off-kilter.
"Matt is going to play his football for the Chicago Bears, you start with that," Smith said at the NFL scouting combine. "In time, hopefully, we can get an agreement in place that suits Matt, and we feel comfortable with. I think it's just a matter of time. That will happen eventually."
"Since drafting Matt in 2008, the Bears have signed Kevin Jones, Chester Taylor and Marion Barber, all ostensibly to serve as Matt's backup," agent Adisa Bakari said in a statement. "To sign yet another running back, prior to completing a deal with Matt, suggests disregard for Matt and his contribution to the Bears."
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It's clear that Forte has earned a long-term deal -- most likely somewhere between Lynch's and Foster's in terms of value. But unless the Bears are clearly low-balling him, Forte's timing is rather curious. The entire structure of Bush's contract wouldn't likely exceed the guaranteed money Forte would get, and the fact that he missed four games in the 2011 season (the first missed games of his NFL career) indicates that the team needs a reliable option should Forte get hurt again. In addition, with more and more teams going to running back rotations as opposed to driving one bell-cow back into the ground, those types of big-money, long-term deals for backs are very rare. Unless you're Adrian Peterson, you're not going to crack the sky with your guaranteed dollars, and Forte should understand that.
In addition, it's probably not good form to go public with your feelings of disgruntlement (however legitimate they may be) with a new GM and a coach who is well known for keeping things quiet. At a time when the Bears can still sign him to a long-term contract, Forte may have been better served to follow that example.
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