The latest drama to surface surrounding the Bears is that running back Matt Forte is “strongly considering not showing up to training camp in Bourbonnais,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Forte is set to make $550,000 in this, the final year of his contract and is seeking an extension. To make matters more complicated, the Bears splurged on free agent running back Chester Taylor last offseason because they were uncertain how Forte would rebound after an injury-plagued second season.
As luck would have it, Forte had a solid year in 2010 becoming the first Bears running back since Walter Payton to accumulate 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. Mike Martz utilized Forte in the passing game from the outset of the season and he finally opened up the run game after the bye week, making Forte the most valuable weapon on offense.
Forte certainly deserves more money, but holding out would be the wrong decision. For starters, Chester Taylor is capable of handling a starter’s workload, so the Bears are not desperate to have Forte in camp on time. Would they lose a little explosion and versatility? Yes, but they have greater leverage than Forte does.
The Bears also have not had the opportunity to hold any minicamps or organized team activities due to the lockout. Hence, if Forte were to hold out for a prolonged time, it would hurt his preparation and subsequently his production. He would not get a big contract from the Bears the following offseason and if he tested the free agent market, chances are that he wouldn’t draw much interest with just two productive years in a four-year career.
To make matters worse, the shelf life of a running back is among the shortest in football and most teams would rather draft a running back than sign a veteran with a lot of hard miles on him who has suffered through knee injuries, both in college and in the pros.
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