UPDATE: The Chicago Bears and running back Matt Forte have agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth roughly $32 million, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Thursday night that "there has been considerable progress" in talks between the Bears and their franchise tagged running back, Matt Forte. According to the report, the new deal would be for five years, though there are "issues to hash out."
If that's true, then the topic of conversation amongst many Bears fans can finally turn to other things. Until Forte either signs the extension or the tag offer, the "Pay the Man" bandwagon lives on.
The two sides have until Monday at 3 p.m. CT to consummate such a deal. Otherwise, Forte will play out the 2012 season under the terms of the one-year franchise tender. And, if that happens, it is unlikely that Forte will return next season.
I haven't jumped on the "Pay Forte" bandwagon because, to me, it just doesn't make good business sense to pay a bunch of guaranteed money, even to a back as good as Forte. If the Bears' original offer—believed to include about $13-$14 million in guaranteed money—had been accepted by Forte and his camp, that would have made sense.
But as we saw last year, when Forte hurt his knee in a loss against Kansas City and missed the final four games of the season, injuries are all too common, especially among running backs.
Additionally, backs are not valued as highly as they used to be. It is a passing-dominated league and has been for awhile. However, for a team like the Bears, who have had to rely on the run more often because of poor weather and the lack of a No. 1 receiver, Forte has been a huge part of the offense.
However, with the additions of Michael Bush and better weapons surrounding Jay Cutler, most notably Brandon Marshall, the reliance on Forte is expected to decrease somewhat. Still, he is one of the best all-purpose backs in the league.
The main weakness in Forte's game is in short-yardage situations. He isn't a good goal-line or third-and-one option. Other than that, he pretty much does everything you would ask for from a running back.
That said, if they can come to a mutually agreed-upon contract that limits the Bears long-term exposure while providing insurance to Forte in case of injury, it would be a win-win situation.
Keep in mind that it's the guaranteed money that matters in the NFL, not necessarily the length of the contract, since only the signing bonus is normally guaranteed to a player.
Hopefully, an agreement will be reached so Forte can end his hold out and come to training camp on time. This report at least offers hope.