With the Bears free agent period all but over - welcome back Dez - the main priority of Jerry Angelo and his management team is the contract of Matt Forte. Enter Bartertown to see what Master Blaster has to say.
Angelo has already gone on record as stating that a new contract for Forte is his first priority; however, he has already cautioned the fanbase that the process will not be simple. "When I say 'intent,' then we are motivated to do something. The timetable is yet to be determined. Just be patient ...and we're going to do our part." Encouraging signs have already been seen, with Forte's agent attending training camp - something not unheard of for any player - and Matt deciding against holding out of training camp despite reports that he was considering a Chris Johnson-type hiatus.
Jerry's assertion that the deal will be challenging makes me wary, especially since we were unable to find common ground to bring back Kreutz, but Forte is different from Kreutz, and Jerry acknowledges it. Matt's an in-his-prime skill position player that perfectly compliments our offensive scheme, versus an O-line warrior beloved by fans that may or may not have the skills still necessary to start, let alone be a top shelf player at his position.
There is no debate about whether or not Forte deserves an extension. His 4,731 yards from the line of scrimmage ranks him fifth overall since entering the league as a second-round selection out of Tulane . Matt won't turn 26 until December, so fears about him approaching the dreaded 30-year-old mark for running backs isn't necessarily a major concern. Plus, he is a perfect fit for the Mad Martz offense, a back that can carry the load on the run, protect the quarterback in 3 or 4 wideout sets, and has caught at least 51 balls in each of his three seasons.
The concern is the timing of the contract extension and whether we can get it done before things get even worse. DeAngelo Williams received a 5-yr, $43 million dollar contract with $21 mil guaranteed, and he's a 28-year-old coming off a six-game season who splits carries with Jonathan Stewart. Angelo acknowledges the difference between Williams situation and Forte's extension discussion, stating
"You are not talking about a UFA (unrestricted free agent), there's an open market there, you bid. ... These extensions are much tougher because agents usually look at the UFA market to set their comps. But he's not a UFA, so that's the challenge."
Understandable, yes? The problem is 2011 is the year of the new running back contracts, since after this season the contracts of Forte, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis, Frank Gore, and Ryan Grant all expire, not to mention that contract holdout of Chris Johnson. Outside of Grant, that's a pretty impressive collection of running backs all coming off of strong 2010 seasons. If Angelo waits too long, he's going to have to negotiate not only with Williams obscene contract in Forte's mind, but also with any extensions agreed to by any of the above backs.
Benson agreed to a one year, $3 million dollar deal that could go to $5 mil with incentives. Barber signed with us for a $2.5 mil per season average. Turner will make $5 mil this season, while Peterson earns $7 mil. Bradshaw just resigned with the Giants for 4 years and $18 million with $9 guaranteed. How much will it take for the team and player to agree?
I know I want Forte back, and the longer the negotiations drag on, the tougher they'll get. Hopefully Angelo keeps Forte's contract on the top of his to-do pile, and gets it done before preseason... or during preseason... or before other big name running backs get contracts that'll make Jerry choke on his morning bran muffin.