Matt Forte has certainly created a lot of buzz over the last several weeks.
From fans being indignant when the Bears utilized the franchise tag to Matt’s tweet about being “disrespected” (which was followed by an onslaught of “trade Forte” mantras), every Bears fan has certainly had a reaction to the contract negotiations of their team’s Pro Bowl running back.
However, it's very smart that the Bears have NOT finalized a contract with Forte.
To those questioning the use of the franchise tag to begin with, the Bears had no choice but to tag Forte. Had they not, Forte would likely already be on another team.
Phil Emery has repeatedly said the team’s plan is to keep Forte as a Bear in 2012 and beyond and the franchise tag does not preclude the negotiation of a long-term deal.
Worst case scenario for Forte: he goes from making $550K last year to $7.7 million in 2012.
I’m sure most of us wouldn't mind a 1300-percent raise.
There is a shared sentiment among Bear fans that Forte should “get paid” because he’s been so critical to the Bears the last several years and because he’s been underpaid during those years. The WORST mistake the Bears, or any organization, can do is base future compensation off of historical performance.
The Bears need to pay Forte for what they think he will do over the next three to five years, not for what he’s done the last four. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times in professional sports: “this is a business.”
Phil Emery took away a lot of Forte's leverage by signing Michael Bush. If Forte threatens to hold out, the Bears would at least be in position to say "O.K." and let him sit while still having a proven, productive back. This is a much better option than letting Forte hold them hostage and force a contract that is not mutually beneficial.
The biggest reason why it’s been smart for the Bears to wait comes down to one word: flexibility.
With approximately $28 million in cap space at the start of the free-agency period, the Bears knew that they would be buyers and the more flexibility they had, the better. Having that cap flexibility has given Emery the ability to go shopping and then structure a deal with whatever money he has left over.
If he were to spend money on big-ticket items, limiting the amount of money they had this year, he could structure a deal with guarantees spread out over multiple years to lessen burden on this year’s cap number. If there’s money left over, use that to front-load a deal and lessen the cap hit on future years (see Arian Foster's contract).
The Bears employ one of the best negotiators and cap-specialists in the business in Cliff Stein. This will play right into his sweet spot.
The bottom line is that Matt Forte will be a Bear in 2012, and likely beyond (after all, the Bears could still use the franchise tag twice more if they so desired). Sometimes these things take time, and the Bears shouldn't be in a rush.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears brass have made a "strong" offer to Forte. Let this play out and have some patience.