Chicago Bears: 5 Scenarios for How the Matt Forte Saga Could End
Chicago Bears fans are frustrated. The team would like to focus on the players on the field, and Matt Forte just wants to be paid. His teammates are tired of answering questions, and training camp is quickly approaching. There has to be an end in sight to the Forte scenario.
Forte doesn't have too many options, but he still has some cards to play. The Bears seem to be willing to wait him out until he gives in, but they have to look down other roads and do what's best for the team.
Some scenarios are more viable than others, but all are still possible. Here are five scenarios for how the Matt Forte saga could end.
Sign the Franchise Tender Before Training Camp
Unable to reach a long-term deal, the Bears slapped the franchise tag on Matt Forte back in early April. Don't feel bad for Forte; a $7.7 million tender is more than a $7 million raise for the Pro Bowl running back.
With that said, how much leverage does Forte have? He just got a huge raise, and the Bears don't seem like they are in a rush to get him the long-term deal he is looking for. Last season, he played through a contract situation where he was making considerably less. Could he do the same this year?
Even quarterback Jay Cutler thinks Forte will sign the tender. A couple weeks back, Cutler took to the radio airwaves to express his opinion on the situation and thinks when the time comes, Forte will be in camp.
Forte is not under contract, so he will not be fined if he misses time in training camp. July 15 is the deadline for the two sides to work out a long-term deal, or else Forte will be forced into playing under the franchise tag.
Hold out Past the July 15 Deadline
As mentioned in the previous slide, the deadline for Matt Forte to work out a long-term deal or sign his franchise tender is July 15. However, with the Bears not opening camp until later that month, he could still push the envelope further.
In an effort to regain some type of leverage, Forte could let the deadline pass and begin to hold out. How long he would take the hold out is entirely up to him. He could hope for the team's offense to struggle at the beginning of camp or an injury to the position.
Forte's potential hold out could be a media disaster for new GM Phil Emery, who might give in a little to fan the flames and put all attention back on the field.
It is not likely Forte holds out for an extended period of time, but the likelihood of him doing so for a couple weeks is strong.
Sit out the Entire Season
Could a 26-year-old running back in the prime of his career actually sit out an entire season? It's a risky move to make any time you leave over $7 million on the table, but there is a small possibility Matt Forte could do it.
In Forte's eyes, he plays a position with the shortest NFL career span. He has already given the team four strong years and is coming off of a knee injury. He feels his physical window is getting smaller and might not want to put his body through anymore harm until he gets a long-term deal.
It would be a difficult decision to make. On one side, if he plays, he risks another significant injury or could see his value drop. On the other side, he could have a monster year where his value goes up while still being paid like one of the top five guys in the league at his position.
The odds of Forte sitting out an entire season are not good. It does not make sense for a running back on the wrong side of 25 to do so. However, not much during this whole scenario has made sense to begin with.
Trade on the Horizon?
Could the Bears trade one of their most productive running backs in team history? Of course they can, if the price is right.
The Bears have exclusive rights to Forte. If another team wants to pull him away with a contract, they would have to give the team two first-round picks. There isn't a team in the NFL that will pay that steep a price for a running back with some miles on him.
Michael Bush and Kahlil Bell give the Bears some decent depth at the position. There is no way they would get two first-round picks for Forte, but how about what they got him for in the first place? A second-round pick is very possible. Forte is still a productive player who could hold high value to a team out there. If a team knows they can reach a long-term deal with Forte, a second-round pick might now mean much to them.
In addition to the draft pick, the Bears could use the money they were going to spend on Forte to fulfill other needs on the team. With new weapons on offense, the team could look towards a running back rotation instead of relying on one guy like in past seasons.
The Inevitable Long-Term Deal
There is really only one solution to this long, drawn-out scenario. Both sides need to come to a long-term agreement, and it needs to happen soon.
It makes sense for both sides. Regardless of what new moves the team has made, Matt Forte is still the focal point of the Bears offense. He will not be upwards of 40 percent of the offense, but expect him to still be at least 25-30 percent next year. Not to mention a long-term deal gets a big monkey off Forte's back, allowing him to concentrate on what he does best and that's play football.
Financially, it's a win for both sides. Forte gets the long-term security he has been seeking for a while now, and the Bears can space out the money, giving them more financial flexibility. Right now, that franchise tender actually hurts the team because they can't space the money out handcuffing them during free agency.
Majority of the running backs on Forte's level have signed their deals. Only him and Ray Rice remain in similar situations. This should make the negotiating plane smaller and easier to manage. A four or five-year deal worth about $17-18 million guaranteed should get this done.
At this point, there should be no excuse for both sides to not come together and get a deal done before the team opens Week 1 at home against the Colts.