Chicago Bears: Matt Forte Is Underpaid, but Why Should We Care?

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IINovember 9, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears celebrates scoring a touchdown  during the NFL International Series match between Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 23, 2011 in London, England. This is the fifth occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It was just another night at the office Monday night for Matt Forte, running for 133 yards, including 52 on the opening drive of the game and leading to a 7-0 Chicago Bear lead. That should have his supporters shouting from the rooftops once again about his contract woes. 

He's on the last year of his four-year $3.7 million rookie contract, pulling in $600,000 this year. That's certainly not chicken-feed, but it's not elite running back money either.

He was looking for a contract extension this year from the Bears and they offered one to him. Their offer was believed to be $6 million a year with $13 million to $14 million of that guaranteed.

It would have been a nice payday; just not enough for him. Not when Adrian Peterson got $36 million guaranteed, $30 million for Chris Johnson, and $21 million for DeAngelo Williams.

The thing about Forte's contract is that he's not a free agent. That's when you normally get the big bucks, so it was generous on the Bears part to offer him an extension at this time.

A running backs career in the NFL is short. The banging they take wears on them and they're usually not effective for more than five or six years, so why should the Bears risk paying him when they don't have to?

The aforementioned Johnson is the perfect example of that. After getting his big contract, he's averaging only 3.0 yards a carry this year with 121 rushes for 366 yards. That's 96th per carry in the league. 

In the previous three seasons, he rushed for over five yards per carry. Perhaps the big payday bogged him down and he lost some motivation.

What I always wonder about is why everyone cares what an athletes getting paid. Chicago sports writers constantly ask him about it and print stories detailing his contract woes.

Fans call up sports radio stations saying, "Pay the man." Why do they care? Are they getting a piece of it?

Is it that perhaps they face injustice in their lives and want someone to win for a change, so he's carrying the ball for them, so to speak? I would love for someone to tell me why it matters to them what he's making.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Most athletes are overpaid, but some unfortunately, because of a contract situation, are not getting what they rightly should.

It's not always fair, but as we all know, life's not always fair.

Bears GM Jerry Angelo is being smart, (for once) knowing he doesn't have to give in to his demands. He has a responsibility to the Chicago Bears to do what's best for the team, not what's best for Matt Forte.

Forte has been a trooper through most of this, just shutting his mouth and letting his play on the field do the talking. He does seems to be getting a little.frustrated though, and perhaps feeling like he's being singled out as evidenced by his comment in the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

"I feel like if it was anybody else on any other team, I think they would have rewarded their player."

Forte is still earning a good buck and he's going to make a lot more next year, even without a new contract.

The Bears will probably put the franchise tag on him, which means he would receive the average of the five highest paid running backs in the league, or somewhere in the $7 million to $8 million range.

That thought doesn't bring a smile to his face. In that same article he said, "If they think by just slapping the franchise tag on me that's going to silence anything, they're sadly mistaken."

So far having a discontented running back doesn't seem to be hurting the Bears as he's leading the league in yards from scrimmage with 1,241.

If anything, it's motivating him to be better. He's having a career year, and is quicker and more elusive than I have ever seen him.

I think they're better off keeping him hungry.

Even he acknowledges what running backs go through, saying, "The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field. So to continue to give me the touches I've had since my rookie year, but not award me a long-term contract sends the message that you're OK grinding me into a pulp."

He said it, not me, so why should the Bears give him money for past performance when the future likely won't be so bright?

That's what Chicago Cubs savior Theo Epstein said in his press conference on how teams get themselves in trouble rewarding players for past performance. 

Who am I to argue with that?

Can you?