Matt Forte is officially a Chicago Bear for the next four seasons.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal is for the next four seasons and averages about $8 million a year. From Forte's prospective, this finally gives him some of the respect that he's been looking for from the Bears for the last two years.
But what does this mean for the Bears?
Everyone Signed When Camp Starts.
The Bears had all of their rookie contracts signed as of March 15 (Sun Times Article) and had all of them present when the summer organized team activities (OTA) and mini camps took place in May and June.
Forte was the last major veteran that needed to sign a contract for the current season. This means that when Chicago kicks off their preseason on July 25th, there will be no major contract distractions. The entire team will be present and will have the preseason to focus on football. The coaching staff can focus exclusively on who will be on the final 53-man roster, and the team will have the maximum amount of time together to get ready for the regular season.
Build Team Chemistry.
Forte and Marshall will be spending a lot of time in the huddle this season, and it's important for them to understand each other as much as possible. As for Bush, there will certainly be a split of the offensive carries for the season. How much really depends on how well these two function together in the offense.
With both players in camp now, the coaching staff can determine exactly how each of them will contribute to make sure both are healthy for the entire season. See this article for more details on predictions for Forte and Bush.
Learning the Playbook
With Mike Martz gone and Mike Tice in as offensive coordinator, the Bears will be using a new playbook.
The addition of Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery also means that the Bears will be more of a passing team than in seasons past. While Forte has been holding out, he has missed that time to work with his team. Bush has been running with the first team.
Now Forte will get a chance to work with the first group as well, and the Bears begin refining things to maximize their potential for the season.
There was little doubt that Forte would be signed before the regular season, especially as the franchise tag deadline approached. But the possibility of a hold-out could not be ignored. With Forte in camp, the Bears have all of their key components in place to attack the 2012 season.
July 25th can't get here soon enough!