4 Consequences of a Potential Matt Forte-Chicago Bears Holdout
Bears looking at RB Michael Bush; Matt Forte could be headin for a holdout, not gonna sign franchise tag soon. Makes sense #freeagency— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 14, 2012
Talk about going from one extreme to another. The Bears just acquired receiver Brandon Marshall via trade and have a complete offense.
And now it's certainly a concern that Chicago may see Forte holdout this fall. By that token, here are five potential consequences if Forte does in fact holdout.
Bears Start Slow, Miss Postseason
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In 2011, the Chicago Bears began the year 7-3, but courtesy of the injury bug, they finished 1-5 and 8-8 overall. Needless to say, the Bears missed the postseason and have to be 100 percent for kickoff in 2012.
Well, with the possibility of Matt Forte holding out, don't expect the Bears to come bursting out of the gates. Last season, Forte began by gaining 785 total yards through the first five games.
However, Chicago was only 2-3 at the time before getting on a five-game win streak. As for 2012, playing the beginning stages without Forte will only be worse.
Regardless of their first few games, opposing defenses will focus on shutting down Brandon Marshall, blitzing Jay Cutler and not respecting Chicago's ground game. Obviously, with Forte on the field, this won't happen. But if he holds out then returns mid-season, it may be too late.
Chicago also needs to upgrade and improve defensively (ranked No. 17 overall and No. 28 against the pass). So the absence of Forte won't allow the Bears to control the game tempo nearly as much, which, in turn, would render Marshall (as we see next) potentially obsolete.
Brandon Marshall's Production Lacks
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Now that Brandon Marshall is reunited with his quarterback from Denver, Jay Cutler, we have to anticipate that the two will pick up where they left off.
Which was the 2008 season in Denver, where Cutler amassed 4,526 passing yards and set the Broncos franchise record. The same year, Marshall accumulated 1,265 receiving yards and recorded a career-high 104 receptions, which still stands for him.
Since then, both have played respectably well, though, nothing as good as to how well they connected in 2007 and 2008.
The even better news with Marshall is that the Bears have a legit running game to fall back on. Well, if Forte ends up holding out, expect defenses to zero in on shutting Marshall down.
The NFC North may be weak against the pass, but all every opponent will need to do is blanket Marshall as much as possible. Then, as we've seen from Marshall before, a flurry of issues could occur once again, thus causing problems in the locker room.
Chicago would become a one-dimensional offense without a legit ground game, so forcing the interception-prone Cutler into making bad decisions will result in less production from Marshall.
Fortunately for Bears fans, though, there may be a free-agent running back worthy of filling in for Forte...
Bears Sign Michael Bush
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According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Chicago Bears met with free-agent running back Michael Bush on Wednesday:
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2012
This is an interesting look by the Bears, because Forte aside, Michael Bush is fully capable of carrying the main brunt of the work for Chicago.
During his 10-game stretch, Bush gained a total of 1,158 yards and scored eight touchdowns. That's an average of almost 116 total yards per game, and the Raiders weren't even that explosive in the passing game.
Therefore, regardless of what happens with Forte, signing Bush is a must for Chicago. This provides the offense with a great two-back tandem if Forte doesn't holdout, and if so, then the Bears have a reliable new guy in Bush.
Forte Signs Elsewhere
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According to Steve Michaels of SoxandDawgs.com, Forte was not given the exclusive franchise tag:
The exclusive tag limits the player to only negotiate with his current team and if no long-term contract is reached the team has to pay him the average of the Top five salaries for the current year for the position.
The non-exclusive tag allows the player to negotiate with any team but the price is steep for the new team.
At this time only Brees and [Tyvon] Branch are believed to have been given the exclusive franchise player tag.
Not tagging Forte with the "exclusive" version, apparently, was a risk that the Bears were willing to take. Still, with free agency not sitting too deep with running backs on Forte's level, Chicago must be wary of other franchises needing a No. 1 ball-carrier.
Although it would be unlikely for the Bears and Forte to split, it would not be surprising, either, considering that just last week we saw Peyton Manning become a free agent.
Right now, however, Forte is only 26 years old, so there's a good five to six years left in him. Therefore, any team interested in pursuing the man would be making a good decision.
In just four NFL seasons, Forte has compiled 6,218 total yards and scored 29 touchdowns in 60 games played. That's an average of over 1,500 total yards per season and 103 total yards per game.
That's what you can call consistently legit production in pro football.
John Rozum onTwitter.