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Dynasty Spotlight: Matt Forte’


It doesn’t appear the Bears are blowing smoke.

Matt Forte’, the dynamic 26 year old running back for the Chicago Bears, continues to be mired in a contract dispute that threatens to get uglier before it gets better.  This holdout feels different, both sides are entrenched and the clock is ticking.  As of today, the parties have just over five weeks to resolve their multi-million dollar difference of opinion before Forte’ ultimately gets the final say.  As of July 16th, if Forte’ remains unsigned, he will be forced to sign his franchise tag offer or watch his teammates play out the season without him.  Long term contracts must wait until following the season.  We’ve all seen this pattern play out before.

This time it feels different, though.

In 2011, Forte’ was on his way to his most productive year as a professional.  Until his week 12 injury against Kansas City, when he suffered a grade two knee sprain that would end his season, Forte’ was on pace for over 1,400 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving, both well above his career high to date.  Even more impressive was his consistent ability to churn out yardage with each touch, averaging nearly five yards per carry (4.9).  But that was 2011.  Things have changed and not in the favor of Forte’.

Prior to the 2012 NFL draft, the Bears acquired the talented Michael Bush from Oakland.  The big back with good hands out of the backfield has a game that looks a lot Forte’s.  He’s not as shifty, but he brings a dynamic and game-productivity all the same.  Bush is a good blocker in passing situations and is a dual threat despite his bigger size.  Given the fact that Kahlil Bell filled in admirably when Forte’ suffered his injury, the addition of Bush spoke volumes about the sequence of events that Chicago’s brass expected following the draft.  The acquisition of Bush looks to be as much about leverage as it was about protection.

Fast forward to today and there are no signs of movement from either side.  OTA’s have been completed and the Bears training camp opens on July 26th.  Forte’ is insistent in his desire for a long-term deal and the Bears are insistent that he first sign his franchise tag offer in order to begin negotiations.  While this dance has played out many times before, usually concluding with a signature and a desire to play by the player, the disrespect that Forte’ is feeling could well stay his hand and lead him out of Chicago.  Don’t expect the Bears to be the first to pull the wheel in this high stakes game of chicken.  They have their insurance policy, are prepared for this event and, as further salt in the wound, have now reportedly claimed they have concerns over the long-term health of Forte’s arthritic knees.

What’s a dynasty coach to do?

Matt Forte’ still checks in with a middle second round grade and is our RB8 in our most recent consensus rankings.  But as his holdout continues and days march on, expect his value to begin to slide.  The Bears have a suitable replacement in Bush, still possess an adequate backup in Kahlil Bell and, most importantly, have all the leverage.  Unless Forte’ agrees to play under a one-year agreement for $7.7M, it’s going to get ugly for Forte’ and his owners.  In the end, the disrespect that Forte’ is feeling is enough for him to dig in as well.  With three and a half years until that less-than-magical thirtieth birthday, he fully understands that a one-year deal followed by another knee injury could be his last.  The resolution in this affair is simply going to come down to Forte’s desire to collect a one-year paycheck.  I don’t see Chicago budging from their stance.  And quite frankly, I don’t see Forte’ budging from his.

The longer this saga stretches on, the more dynasty owners have to be concerned.  Should Forte’ decide to sign on the bottom line, we simply can’t expect a return to previous production given the variables in play.   If he doesn’t, his value drops precipitously.  This year is not shaping up well for fantasy owners of Forte’ and you’ve now reached the point where his trade value will be seriously impacted.  If you are looking to acquire him in trade, it’s time to start your pitch.  If you’re looking to sell, it’s not likely that you can do so aggressively as the sharks in your league will smell blood.  It’s a buyer’s market.

In the end, I believe Forte’s days in Chicago may be over.  Chicago has little incentive for anything other than allowing the franchise tag process to play itself out.  Forte’ has 7.7 million reasons to sign, but has to consider the rest of his career with one last contract looming.  The best result for both parties at this juncture is a trade to greener pastures.   Either way, for 2012 at least, it’s quickly shaping up to be a disappointing year for Forte’ and his owners.

I’ve always liked Matt Forte’ as a back.  He was a relatively unheralded rookie who rose from the ranks by keeping his talk to a minimum and his production at a maximum.  He’s been one of the most durable backs over his career and became a dual threat from his first game in 2008.   He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and goes to work in a workmanlike fashion.  Simply put, he’s easy to root for.  Everything about this situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth in how I view Chicago’s management.  I understand it’s a business and sometimes in business you have to make tough decisions.

Sometimes business decisions just don’t feel very good.

Jeff Haverlack
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Larry Gilman
10 years ago

Chicago’s management is the scum of the NFL, plain and simple. Forte deserves much better than this.

If it was a business decision and they didn’t want to pay him, fine, that’s their right. In that case, what they should have done is trade him before the rookie draft. I’m sure there would have been multiple teams interested and a deal would have been a win/win for both sides. Instead we have this, a team trying to strong arm their best player into signing a deal which is great for the Bears, but not so much for Forte.

As I said, scum of the NFL.

Adam Franssen
Reply to  Larry Gilman
10 years ago

I don’t understand your position at all…with the franchise tag, the Bears are using a tool that they collectively bargained for just last summer. What, Forte, Brees, and MJD didn’t think it would happen to them?

For crying out loud, Forte is looking at 7.7M this year and over 8M next to play RB. PLUS, he’s had a long-term offer on the table since last summer. Poor Guy!

Finally, no one was calling the Bears “scum” when they re-signed Briggs and Urlacher when they were disgruntled. Nor were they “scum” for bringing in highly-paid FA’s like Peppers and Cutler. If anything, the Brass deserve credit for understanding player shelf lives and how to build a perennial contender.

Reply to  Adam Franssen
10 years ago

as harsh as it is we all live in the world of business, most of us do a hard job for a hell of a lot lot lot less. feel sorry for these guys? hell know. 7.7 mil? wheres the pads. its a business and the bears are not “screwing” him by any means. they are within the rules of he game that both labor and management agreed upon? NOT? forte is really doing himself more bad then he’s gambling with. take the money, sign the tender, bust your ass, get a bigger payday, and walk away. you want to get back at the bears that is the way to do it…..give them something, take something, and walk away……american business

Pikachu
Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

The problem is the system. If he signs the tender, the Bears can retain him with another franchise tag. Then, after the 2013 season, after they’ve used him up, they can throw him back into the FA pool.

If he wants a big payday, Forte needs to make a stand now. Besides, if he really does have long term health issues with his knees, he’ll need the security a bigger payout can give him.

CaptiveAssasin
Reply to  Pikachu
10 years ago

Ok listen closely so i can right the ship on your off course thinking. I am a bears fan who lives right outside chicago so i am very close to tge situtation. I love forte, but i love the bears more. I want what is best for the bears and not budging is whats best. If what you say happens, he signs his tender this year and also gets franchised next year, the franchise money goes up, significantly. This year he makes 7.7 mill, next year the franchise tag goes to 9 mill with all the new contracts for rbs. That is 16.7 mill guarenteed and thats for 2 years worth of work. That is a lot of money for a rb. I think forte wanted a 3 year 20-21 mill guarenteed contract but if he is franchised for both years, avoids a serious injury, then signs at minimum another 1 year deal with another team, he will have made right around what he was looking for. I doubt the beara will franchise him twice though, especially since i dont believe in payimg rbs that much money. Great move by the bears, especially with bush. Unfortunately this has to happen to a good guy but its business and its not like hes playing for free.

Ryan Krcil
Reply to  Pikachu
10 years ago

@ Patrick. I think it goes up %20 (or so) because it would be his 2nd franchise tag with the team. So it would be more than $9MM.. closer to $11MM… for a guy who arguably sometimes doesn’t make the top 5 RB discussion

Phorts
10 years ago

I’m a Pats fan and my favorite NFL player is Forte. Like u said in the article, he’s a hard working, no BS player and plays the game they way it should be. The NFL put him and all rookies, esp RB, in this predicament and Chicago is taking advantage. It’s sick, really. I despise the Bears and crybaby Cutler deserves Diva Marshall. It’s impossible to root for them. Nothing would make me happier then to see Forte traded to a team that appreciates his talents. Imagine my excitement when the rumors surfaced about the Pats interest. I knew that was a pipe dream with their philosophy, situation and cap room. But as a Forte owner in dynasty, and a huge fan, I’m just not sure where he COULD get traded, nevermind where I would like him to go. Green Bay? I just don’t know.

Any thoughts on potential landing spots if your theory comes true?

Brian Shelton
Reply to  Phorts
10 years ago

Being a bears fan, the biggest rumors I heard were from Denver and the Jets. Denver makes sense because if you give Manning the better version of Addai just when Mcgahee becomes too old to play the game. Also, the jets have their Shaun Green experiment running to an end this season and I could see him landing their next year. Just my opinion but I see these two as the front runners in next years free agency.

reddaddy32
10 years ago

Ya I really am taken aback by Chicago’s stance on this. I don’t think they yet realize how this move is going to impact their ability to bring in free agents down the road. Players are not going to want to go to Chicago.

dave hoover
Reply to  reddaddy32
10 years ago

if the money is right, like with peppers or chester taylor the same year, for instance, the free agents will come…mark it down…maybe guys won’t want to get drafted by the bears, but free agents work in a different market. lots of teams use a similar approach, think free agents won’t come to new orleans or baltimore or new england because of this approach, doubtful…

Pikachu
Reply to  dave hoover
10 years ago

Peppers and Taylor came because of the money. When players have close enough contract offers from different teams, they use other aspects as tie-breakers. Baltimore gets major points for how they’ve treated Lewis as he’s declined and Reed as he keeps debating about retiring.

I can expect how the Bears treat Forte to be a negative as FAs weigh contract offers.

Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see how Baltimore negotiates with Rice and what the final contract is.

Chris
Reply to  Pikachu
10 years ago

Well the big mess with Briggs didn’t seem to make FAs stop coming to Chicago. The Bears have one of the top contract negotiators in the league. The routinely get their players signed, but don’t do so on their player’s terms they do it on their own. Once Briggs stopped his whining publicly, they paid him more than he was worth. I think the reason Forte has not been traded is because there i snt a team Who will pay Forte what he is asking for. I don’t see this as hurting the Bears in the future with FAs, they will be fine. If anything players should be upset they agreed to continue to have the tag.

david collins
10 years ago

I concur with all of the comments panning chicago here. The points made about chicago using the tools that were collectively bargained for are technically valid, but why doesn’t Pittsburgh then reduce Mike Wallace’s tender? They are able to. Why doesn’t Baltimore recover the signing bonus money and salary money from Terrell Suggs? They are able to. Forte is an incredible player, a class act, and frankly the kind of guy you want to have in your locker room and point to when you are looking to demonstrate how a professional athlete should handle his business.

I hope this affects chicago this year in terms of losing Forte’s production. I hope this affects chicago in terms of internal player discord. I hope this affects chicago in terms of signing rookies and all but premier free agents. I want nothing but bad things for chicago.

Frank The Tank
Reply to  david collins
10 years ago

I have no beef with Chicago at all but I couldn’t agree more with your post. There are a lot of tools managment can use against their players and vice versa but to do it to a player like Forte, who has been nothing but a class act is just wrong imo. I don’t think you treat a player that has been so critical to a teams success this way. I will always take the side of the players like Forte.

sixshooter
Reply to  david collins
10 years ago

The problem here is that NFL teams are understanding that an injury to a running back is much more likely than any other position and therefore, they are not as willing to give a huge long term contract to a player who is at a position where their career is shorter than say…a WR or LB. A running back player just doesn’t have that same importance long term to a team than players at most any other position of the same caliber.

Therefore, most all teams are now using that “long term” money for players at other positions and I am sure that the Bears have Brian Urlacher in mind as they are considering a contract for Matt Forte since Urlacher’s is in a contract year! Ray Rice is likely in that same boat as Matt Forte.

This same theory with the length of RB’s careers is also the same reason why there was so much talk of how teams are not as willing to select a running back in the first round as they have been in previous years! Not only do they have the risk of drafting a rookie (which about 30 percent of first round picks end up being busts) but running backs also come with a higher injury risk earlier in their careers.

Running backs are just going to have to accept this because it makes sense the way teams are thinking and it is a business. I am sure that teams would love to throw all the money in the world at these players if they had a bottomless bank account but they don’t and even if they did…..they still have the salary cap restricting them!

Fans and players are going to have to learn this because this concept is not going away and is not just a concept with one or two teams!

Don’t think the Lions paid a price for drafting Mikel LeShoure and Ryan Williams in the second round last year…think again! Don’t think the Browns paid a price with drafting Montario Hardesty in round 1 the year before….think again! Don’t think the Broncos paid the price for drafting Knowshon Moreno 12th overall the year before…..think again! You can even go back the year before and look at the Darren McFadden’s (4th overall) and Reshard Mendenhall’s who teams spent first round picks on and paid a price due to the player missing considerable playing time and early in their short-lived careers!

Teams are just not going to break the bank on a liability such as a running back when they have other players that play at a position with players having a reputation of having longer careers.

You can be a great guy, a great player, etc, etc, etc but if I sign you to a healthy 5 year contract with a ton of gauranteed money, and we are talking millions, while knowing that chances are….you aren’t going to get me the return on that investment…then…..I am going to be out of work very sooooon!!!! It’s a numbers games and the numbers don’t add up for long term contracts for RB’s. It is what it is and they are all going to have to accept that today!!!

Chris R.
10 years ago

It’s already been said, but why don’t you trade him? You’ve got a solid replacement, your obviously not going to lock him up long term, see what type of feelers you can get. NE or Cin would probably easily give up a 2nd round pick which if your Chicago helps you out a lot more and Forte gets his deal after the trade. Nobody really wins in this situation.

Both sides make sense, Chicago and Forte. Everyone tells Forte shut up and play, knowing full well 1 injury early in the season ruins any long term stability you have. It’s easier said then done to play 2 full seasons at a pro bowl level without 1 injury at RB.

On Chicago’s side, why cram up your salary cap when he could easily fall apart early into that contract. 30 isn’t always the dreadful year. Clinton Portis fell apart at 28, after 1 last great season at 27. It’s not the smartest idea to spend big bucks on a RB late in their career.

If I’m the Jags, I don’t budge on MJD’s demands either. Forte gains nothing by not playing, so he’s going to have to pray it’s an injury free season. I can’t see myself trading for him though. His owners want a ransom for him like he’s a risk free RB1 and at those prices combined with the age + risk I’ll pass every time.

LinktothePast
Reply to  Chris R.
10 years ago

Portis broke down at 28, but he had heavy miles on his legs. He had played 8 years in the league and had almost 10K yards and 2200 carries. Forte has 1000+ carries less carries right now.

He’s 26, which should translate into at the very least 4 more very productive years left. I don’t see why a guy that has done all he has been asked to do can’t get the kind of contract Lynch just got in Seattle. He’s better than Lynch. I can see an issue if he is asking for Chris Johnson or AP money, but I don’t think that is the case.

I hope they come to a conclusion here soon or just do him a favor and trade him to a team that will appreciate his talents.

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