"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."
With a 26 word outburst via twitter, Chicago Bears Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte summed up a year’s worth of frustration with the Bears when he learnt that former Raider Michael Bush had been signed to a four-year contract while Forte himself awaits his own deal to be finalized.
What does this mean for Forte?
Forte may be justified in thinking that the Bears are trying to find a way to help replace him in the offense or back out of what seemed like a foregone conclusion to grant the four-year pro a much desired long term deal. But is this truly the case?
When new General Manager Phil Emery took over the front office following the 2011 season, signing Forte to a long term deal seemed a priority and as recently as the NFL combine, Coach Lovie Smith was quoted as saying "I think it's just a matter of time" before the sides reached a long-term agreement." While it would seem that little progress has been made in this regard, it should be quite clear that Forte remains a large part of the Bears future plans, regardless of the Michael Bush signing.
There can be no argument that Forte deserves to be paid handsomely by the Bears for what he has achieved since being drafted out of Tulane in 2008. He has been a workhorse in both the running and receiving game each and every year (thriving under the Martz regime) and should continue to be productive, even with a new offensive system being installed this offseason.
[caption id="attachment_14133" align="aligncenter" width="468" caption="Forte was obviously distressed at the Bush signing."]
The newly signed Bush, who is used to playing in a complimentary role in the Raiders backfield should not be seen as a serious threat to Forte’s starting job. But by signing the former Raider, the Bears get both a capable backup as well as a veteran who can shoulder a full workload if anything were to happen to Forte throughout the season (or he eventually holds out seeking the new contract).
With new Offensive Co-ordinator Mike Tice looking to return to a power running game, a staple of the Bears’ offense in the pre-Martz days, it makes sense for the Bears to have more than one starting calibre running back on the roster, especially with the League-wide trend to have a running attack by committee.
Bush provides a bruising, starting calibre back, as witnessed by his replacement of the often injured Darren McFadden in 2011, during which he rushed for a career high 977 yards. But as mentioned above, this does not mean that the Bears are looking to replace their “franchised” player with a running back who is not only a year older than Forte but has also not yet had a 1000 yard season in his four year career.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="328" caption="Michael Bush in fact should be a great complement to Forte and the Bear's offense."]
The other factor that should be seen as working in Forte’s favour is that with the exception of the trade for Brandon Marshall’s hefty contract, no lengthy, big money deals have been handed out to either incoming Free Agents or current members of the Bears roster (although Bush will earn close to Forte this year if no deal is reached).
What this could mean is that Emery is saving himself to work out a deal to pay Forte a contract that fairly reflects his market value, but may not be exactly what the back is demanding. The contract may not be an Adrian Peterson/Chris Johnson-esque deal, but it could be argued that he deserves the equivalent of Ray Rice who also remains under the franchise tag with no long term deal yet in place.
The situation between Forte and the Bears has perhaps become precarious most recently, with Forte’s outburst probably not making an ideal impression on a new GM in the middle of significant contract negotiations.
However, it is in the best interest of both parties to get a contract finalised before the start of OTA’s so that Emery’s reshaping of the Bears roster is not overshadowed by their best offensive player missing time when it counts.