LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears celebrates scoring a touchdown during the NFL International Series match between Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 23, 2011 in London, England. This is the fifth occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
"Da Man" is of course the do it all running back of the Chicago Bears, Matt Forte. The still unsigned Forte seems to be serious about not signing the contract that is on the table from the Chicago Bears, and the Bears are quite content to stand pat on their offer. There's also the little 7+ million dollar franchise tag that is awaiting Forte's approval. When neither side is willing to budge in a negotiation, the side with the least leverage and the most to lose has no choice but to cave. Forte has no leverage and everything to lose. The only play in this situation is to sign the long term contract the Bears are offering.
Whether you side with the player or the team, you have to look at the negotiation from a business standpoint. The revamped Bears offense will be just fine without Matt Forte. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will help out the passing game. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates are set to install a more Jay Cutler friendly offense. And Michael Bush (a starting quality back) was brought in as running back insurance. If the Bears were to play without Forte in 2012, they'd be OK. From a financial point of view, if Forte were to hold out the 2012 season he wouldn't be OK. Matt Forte needs the Bears far more than the Bears need Forte.
WCG Weekend Warrior Steven Schweickert did a fine job looking at the Forte situation from different angles. He looked at the recent LeSean McCoy deal from the Eagles and how his production compares to Forte, and he examined the leverage by looking deeper into the Dan Pompei article from the Tribune. That article lists all the recent running back contracts that were signed and tries to rank Forte with his peers.
In my opinion two teams made mistakes with recent deals, the Panthers overpaid for DeAngelo Williams and the Seahawks gave too much to Marshawn Lynch. The Bears, nor any other team for that matter, will be held hostage by those two deals. It's easy to follow the logic; Player X is a better all around player than Player Y, Player Y got $17 million guaranteed, therefor Player X should get more. Wrong. If teams gave out contracts based solely on this criteria, things would get even more out of hand than they already are.
The Bears simply have no reason to budge in their offer. When one side gives the "take it or leave it stance" it usually paints them in a negative light, but in this case it's the right call. The Bears have Forte's rights for two more years. This years franchise tag, and if they so incline, next years tag at around nine million and some change. That's approximately $17 million the Bears appear willing to spend. After the 2013 season the Bears could elect to let Forte go, and then he'd be forced to look elsewhere for some long term security. It's doubtful a running back with the kind of mileage Forte would have and a running back on the doorstep of 30 would find a team willing to give a big long term deal.
As a Bears fan, I would love to see him signed. I think he's a very versatile player that would continue to thrive with the new weapons added to the Bears offense. Maybe once Baltimore's Ray Rice signs his deal, it'll prompt Forte to sign. Rice is in a similar situation to Forte, and the Ravens appear to be as hard lined in their negotiations as the Bears.
The most logical play in this entire situation for Forte and his agent Adisa Bakari is sign the deal. Take the guaranteed money and play for an additional $7ish million per year. If Forte holds out, all he becomes is an even older player looking to get paid. If he plays under the franchise tag and is injured he risks losing millions. The window to make money as an NFL running back isn't as big as other positions, so it's smart to get some while the offers on the table. Especially since that offer will not be there for ever.