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If the Bears do not sign Matt Forte long term and he leaves, it will send a bad message to current Bears and free agents alike.
Forte has produced on the field while being a good locker room presence. He is keeping a severely average team in the NFC playoff hunt.
Not rewarding Forte will let current Bears and free agents know Chicago does not take care of its top players.
That's part of the reason why productive tight end Greg Olsen is in Carolina, because general manager Jerry Angelo did not want to pay him after his rookie deal expired.
That's why retired center Olin Kreutz signed for less money with the New Orleans Saints ($2 million) than the Bears ($4 million offer) because Chicago gave him an hour take-it-or-leave it offer with a short window for a decision.
Angelo cannot afford to give the Chicago Bears organization a huge black eye by mistreating Forte.
The negative fallout from Forte leaving would make top free agents not want to sign and top Bears not wanting to re-sign.
Bob Bajek is a writing intern at Bleacher Report. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.