The Chicago Bears and running back Matt Forte have been at an impasse over a long-term contract for more than a year now. Forte has been Chicago's most consistent offensive player since entering the NFL in 2008, but questions still swirl about just how valuable he is and what he is worth long-term.
As things stand right now, Forte will play the 2012 season under the $7.7 million franchise tag. But he certainly wants a long-term deal to be worked out sometime soon.
Several running backs have gotten long-term contracts over the past year and a half, and Forte's numbers warrant a deal in the range of those others. On May 17, the Philadelphia Eagles signed LeSean McCoy to a six-year, $45.616 million deal with $20.765 million guaranteed.
Meanwhile, in March, the Houston Texans inked Arian Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract, with $20.75 million in guarantees.
Those two contracts are probably in the range of where Forte deserves to get paid given his numbers.
So far in his four-year career, the Tulane product has rushed for 4,233 yards and 21 touchdowns on 1,014 carries (4.2 yards per carry). He has also racked up 1,985 yards and eight touchdowns on 223 receptions, which shows his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield.
In 2011, Forte was off to the best start of his career, as he rushed for 997 yards on 203 carries (4.9 yards per carry) in the season's first 12 games. He also added 52 receptions for 490 yards before his year was cut short by an MCL sprain.
Forte and McCoy have posted comparable numbers. The Eagles back has rushed for 3,026 yards and 28 touchdowns in his three-year career while adding 1,215 yards and five touchdowns on 166 receptions.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year, $31 million deal ($17 million guaranteed) in March. That contract would probably be the absolute floor for talks with Forte. Lynch is a strong back who had a nice season in 2011 (1,204 yards on 285 carries), but he's nowhere near as versatile as Forte.
McCoy and Forte have posted similar numbers, which means the Bears back deserves a deal similar to Philadelphia's top ball-carrier. Chicago will just have to come to terms with that fact and pony up the cash in order to keep its top offensive weapon happy.