When you examine the possibility that the tension between Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears front office over a long-term contract extension could have erupted into a heavyweight fight complete with haymakers, the four-year, $32-million deal the two sides agreed on Monday left the potential scuffle as nothing more than a pair of lightweights circling the ring and hardly throwing jabs.
With the 3 p.m. deadline for an extension looming, and a potential dark cloud of a Forte holdout lingering in the near vicinity, both sides reached a compromise that ensures Forte will get his big payday and the Bears will have their top back in camp on time preparing for what many consider a potential Super Bowl season.
Throughout the negotiating process, which stemmed back into last season’s breakout performance, Forte was professional on the field but less than mature off it, often taking to Twitter to gripe about not getting what he felt he deserved. His pouting never quite got to the level that Lance Briggs’ tantrum reached when the Pro Bowl linebacker claimed he would never again play for the Bears, but Forte was quickly losing public support for arguing a position few felt carried any leverage.
In the end, Forte should feel fortunate that he got what he did because the Bears certainly did not have to give him the reported $18 million in guaranteed money he will be receiving.
The Bears, however, were not duped into ponying up the dough despite claims to the opposite by some on the Chicago airwaves. Had they held their ground and franchised Forte this season and next, his guaranteed money would have been up in the range of $16 million anyway. Only, Forte would have been disgruntled and might have held out, complicating matters for a team whose Super Bowl window is most likely as narrow as the the two years they would have tagged their star running back.
In the end, what this deal amounts to is the Bears paying Forte to be a top level back for at least three more years. He’s currently in the prime of his career — he may never have a more productive season than he did last year — but if the Bears can squeeze three good years out of the reasonably-aged 26-year-old, the deal will be more than palatable and will not hurt their financial situation moving forward.
By the end of Forte’s deal, the Super Bowl window will likely be shut — barring any major youth movement by Phil Emery over the next few years — and a new, younger back will have to be brought in, anyway, to rebuild the ground game.