Soon, organized team activities will kick off across the NFL, but as players across the league gather for the first time this spring, two NFC North standouts will be conspicuously absent due to their displeasure over being saddled with their respective teams' franchise tags.
The Chicago Tribune reports that star running back Matt Forte, who is in search of a long-term contract after gaining at least 1,400 total yards in each of his four NFL seasons, is not expected to join his teammates when they begin offseason workouts next week.
The Bears will be without running back Matt Forte for the sessions if he does not sign the tender he received as the team’s franchise player or a long-term contract is not worked out. To this point, there’s been no sign of progress. Publicly, general manager Phil Emery says the team continues to work toward the goal of a multi-year deal.
So, barring a breakthrough, Forte will be a high-profile absence as the Bears get going.
Meanwhile, across the NFC North, Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, who broke out last season with 11 sacks, will be in town when the Lions begin working out next week. But as the Detroit Free Press reports, since Avril hasn't signed his franchise tender or a new deal he'll be watching his teammates from the sideline.
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The Detroit Lions and defensive end Cliff Avril remain at a standstill in contract negotiations, but Avril said he’ll be in town for the start of the off-season conditioning program next Monday just in case there’s a breakthrough.
Avril said he has no immediately plans to sign his one-year franchise tender of $10.6 million – he can’t take part in organized team workouts without a contract – and still hopes to work out a long-term deal.
“I think we’re going to continue to try and get something done hopefully and we’ll see how it goes,” Avril said.
It's wildly premature to call a missed voluntary practice or two a harbinger of a protracted holdout, but with each passing day that possibility increases, as does the chance for acrimony between the team and player once workouts become mandatory and fines begin being levied.
Therefore, it's in the best interests of all parties involved to try to ink Forte and Avril to long-term deals that could both afford some short-term salary cap relief and ensure that the two teams staring up at the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North don't make the climb to the top any harder than it has to be.