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When I contemplate the possibility of the Chicago Bears "tagging" Matt Forte as their franchise player, I hearken back to similar situations between the New England Patriots and offensive lineman Logan Mankins and the San Diego Chargers and wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
Jackson is currently playing under the franchise tag for San Diego, while the Patriots made Mankins the team's franchise player before signing him to a long-term contract this past offseason. I had no problems with either the Pats or Bolts stringing their star players along under the controversial franchise tag because both Jackson and Mankins were fairly replaceable.
The Patriots offensive line didn't miss much of a beat when Mankins held out during the first half of the 2010 season. And although Philip Rivers's game has taken an alarming nosedive this year, Jackson hasn't exactly lit the league afire with his play this year, either.
In my mind, Mankins and Jackson are expendable; Forte isn't. I realize that the importance of running backs has diminished in a league that's become obsessed with passing.
Still, Forte's importance to Chicago's offense can't be understated. If quality running backs grew on trees, then every team would have a back of Forte's caliber. The problem is that not many teams do.
Although fans can endlessly debate Forte's impact, I feel we'll ultimately decide just how vital Forte is to the Bears in the coming weeks...