Franchise Tag Deadline Nears for Chicago Bears, RB Matt Forte

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 29, 2012

Look for the Bears to use the franchise tag on RB Matt Forte in lieu of a long-term deal
Look for the Bears to use the franchise tag on RB Matt Forte in lieu of a long-term dealChris Graythen/Getty Images

For Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, no news may be good news. There have been few, if any, updates on contract talks between Forte and the team, which reportedly restarted over the weekend at the scouting combine.

Head coach Lovie Smith, speaking at the combine last Thursday, said there's little doubt that Forte will receive an extension. However, it's a matter of when that will happen.

Forte is set to be an unrestricted free agent if a deal isn't struck, but the two sides have until just Monday to do so, otherwise the team would likely need to use the franchise tag on him.

With the franchise tag, Forte would be set to make $7.7 million in 2012, but that number will likely serve as a jumping-off point for continued negotiations rather than the set salary he will receive this year.

Forte declined a deal before the start of the 2011 season worth between $13 and $14 million in guaranteed money.

Forte is likely looking for around $20 million guaranteed, which he could ultimately receive considering the Bears' desire to keep him on the roster, perhaps for the duration of his career.

It's looking like the Bears will have to franchise Forte to ensure he doesn't hit the open market when free agency starts on March 13, but the two sides should come to an agreement on a satisfactory long-term deal no later than June or July and perhaps much sooner.