As reported by Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times early today, the Chicago Bears and Matt Forte were able to agree terms on a new four year deal, which Adam Schefter reports will be around $8 million a year.
The deal means that Matt Forte will be ready for the start of training camp with the Bears and will give new offensive coordinator Mike Tice a full disposal of weapons for the 2012 season.
Throughout the negotiation process, the Bears and Forte seemed to be at a standoff. The Bears front office was reluctant to pay big money for a player whom they believed to have knee concerns, which Forte didn't take kindly to, as he posted a video on his Twitter page diminishing concerns.
There was a drama, an unnecessary "will they won't they" feel to the negotiations, with TV analysts seemingly dwelling on the lack of process, milking it for all it was worth.
However, new GM Phil Emery continues to build up a strong rapport with both his teams and his fans by doing something Jerry Angelo failed to do: lock up the team's most valuable player.
Forte accounted for over 40 percent of the team's offense last year and diligently became the clear go-to guy for the Bears. He finished as the leading rusher and receiver for a Chicago side severely lacking offensive playmakers.
In what seemingly appeared to be a slap in the face to Forte, the Bears brought in Michael Bush. He is a quality running back who could act as a complementary back if Forte were to return, or could fill in as a feature back—like he did in Oakland—should Forte hold out.
Forte felt disrespected and had every right to. But at the same time, Forte understood it was business. Eventually, his time would come and now, the two present a mouthwatering ground attack for Chicago in 2012.
You can still expect pretty much the same from Matt Forte. He won't be the fastest running back in the league but his vision, his burst and his cutting ability will perfectly complement Michael Bush's ground-and-pound physicality, wearing down opposing defences and ultimately helping out Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense.
Long gone is the Mike Martz system of excessive dropbacks and in comes a Mike Tice-Jeremy Bates hybrid system perfectly tailored to the players they have.
It's difficult to know what to expect from Chicago in 2012. They have a backfield tandem which creates an aggressive and persistent rushing impact, but also have receiving weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, all of whom can make plays and require attention from a defence.
Combine that with a matured and more decisive Jay Cutler, and you've got an offense which is extremely explosive—should all the pieces come together.
Mike Tice has the unique and enviable conundrum of whether he wants to base his offense on the pass or the rush. He can also alter that from week to week based on the opponent.
Remember, the Bears were at 7-3 last year and were looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. They went into Philadelphia on a Monday night and calmly took care of business. They tore a Lions side to pieces in a way typical to how this Chicago side has done things in the past. Devin Hester took a punt to the house and they picked off Matthew Stafford four times, taking two back for touchdowns.
In a world of ifs and buts, the Bears would have been a serious playoff contender had Cutler and Forte stayed healthy. Should the two stay healthy this year, surrounded with a greater supporting cast, you can expect them to be right in the hunt come the end of the season.
Green Bay are still the team to beat in the NFC North, maybe even the NFC. Detroit will be out to prove that last season was no fluke and that they are a perennial playoff contender. And you can put your mortgage on the fact that Minnesota isn't content with remaining at the bottom of the division. It won't be easy, but with Matt Forte back on board, it became just that bit more manageable.
It's been a tough year for Chicago sports. The Blackhawks were knocked out in the playoffs. The Bulls had high hopes until Derrick Rose got injured. The Bears were looking promising until injuries struck. Though the White Sox may be doing well, the Cubs—well, they're just the Cubs.
But in just 55 days times, the city of Chicago has a reason to be optimistic again.