The Chicago Bears and RB Matt Forte seem to be at an impasse in regards to a long-term contract. According to dozens of reports in the media, he has an offer on the table from the Chicago Bears, but will he decide to sign it? If Forte declines to sign his tender, would the Chicago Bears trade RB Matt Forte?
Forte seemed to have the upper hand with the Bears heading into free agency while he was being backed up with a broken down Marion Barber, but now, the Bears have inked former Oakland Raiders RB Michael Bush to a multi-year deal and Forte has lost a bit of his leverage. Chicago slapped the franchise tag on their running back prior to the March 5 league imposed deadline but the prolific runner was unhappy about not receiving a long-term deal. The franchise tag comes with a $7.74 million dollar salary in 2012.
Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Florida, head coach Lovie Smith expressed optimism about reaching a deal with Forte. “My glass is always half-full. Everything you’ve ever heard from us, Matt Forte is our running back. In the offseason, negotiations go on. That’s the time to take care of your contract situation, in the offseason. That’s where we’re at now,” said Smith.
But what happens if Forte, a player who had threatened a potential holdout at the start of last season, decides not to sign his tender offer? Would the Bears trade him? The NFL is now less than 30 days to the start of the 2012 NFL Draft, would the Bears try to trade him prior to the start of the draft, knowing that Bush is signed and under contract? Which team would be a good fit for Forte?
I can think of two teams currently which might be interested in Forte heading into the draft and have the extra picks to trade away in order to acquire him. The Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots. Both teams have multiple picks in the early rounds of the upcoming draft. Cleveland is thin at the running back position after losing RB Peyton Hillis in free agency and having the oft-injured Montario Hardesty on the roster. The Browns employ a West-Coast style of offense and Forte is adroit at catching balls out of the backfield, never recording fewer than 50 receptions in a season during his career.
The best fit however, might just be the New England Patriots. A trade for the 26-year old Forte would be out of character for New England as head coach Bill Belichick likes to employ older, veteran rushers, but the addition of Forte would bolster and already offensively loaded roster lacking a clear starting running back. Free agent RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has signed on with the Cincinnati Bengals and the move leaves the Patriots without a clear cut starting running back. Stevan Ridley is not prepared to assume the role as a 20 carry per game back.
Did the Chicago Bears sign Michael Bush truly as a backup for Matt Forte or as an insurance policy in case of a protracted holdout? Perhaps a little of both. The notoriously frugal Chicago Bears have placed an offer on the table for Matt Forte, if he doesn’t sign it prior to the draft, he might be playing elsewhere next season while finding out the destination on April 26th.