Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo announced on Monday that contract-extension talks between the team and Matt Forte have been tabled until after the season. He said both sides would prefer to focus solely on the season at hand and that talks will resume after this year's campaign is finalized.
Forte is scheduled to make just $550,000 this season, the last year of his rookie contract. He contemplated holding out at the beginning of the offseason but instead elected to show up to camp on time. Angelo told him that it was a priority to make sure he received the money he deserved, which was the main reason he didn't hold out. Since then, the two sides have been negotiating but have not been able to come to an agreement.
"I'm disappointed, kind of frustrated that it didn't get done," Forte said today. "As a player, you're told that this league is based off of production. You expect your team to notice that and to get paid based on your production. I was expecting to get paid based on other backs that are similar to me but that didn't happen. So obviously I've got to continue to play under my [rookie] contract."
Yet Forte said he doesn't have any misgivings about the way he and his agent have handled the situation.
"No, I handled it like I always do," he said. "I'm a professional in the National Football League. So that what I'm going to do, come out and be a professional about it, which is to come into camp, work hard every day in the preseason and get ready for the season. That's what I've done. It's unfortunate that I did not get a contract extension but I have no regrets."
Only four players in the NFL have had more all-purpose yards than Forte the past three seasons. Two of the league's top back, Frank Gore and Chris Johnson, recently received extensions -- Gore at $7 million per year and Johnson at $13 million a season. Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams also was rewarded as a free agent with a five-year deal worth $43 million, with $21 million guaranteed. Yet somehow, Forte and the Bears couldn't find a common ground.
"Offers were made," Forte said. "I'm not going to talk specifics. As a player, this business is production based. You expect to be paid based on similar guys that have produced like I have produced, in a similar range, and that didn't happen."
Forte will become a free agent after this season and admitted he's excited about the opportunity to test the market.
"Yeah, I've thought about that. This is the last year on my deal. I'll be a free agent [after the season]. Hopefully, if the Bears don't, another team will see [my] value."
Yet despite not being able to finalize a deal, Forte said it will not affect the way he plays this year and that his desire to do well is as strong as ever.
"As of now I'm just focusing on playing football through this season and trying not to let it be a distraction," he said. "I've always had a fire in me ever since I came into the league. I came out of a small school with a lot of people saying things about guys that come out of small schools. I've always had a fire and nothing's going to change."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.