Everyone but Forte getting paid

Two more NFL running backs have earned long-term deals. How do the recent signings of Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Houston's Arian Foster affect Matt Forte's chances at a new contract?

In the past 24 hours, the Seattle Seahawks signed RB Marshawn Lynch to a four-year deal worth $31 million, with $18 million guaranteed. On top of that, the Houston Texans just signed RB Arian Foster to a five-year deal worth $43.25 million, with $20.75 million guaranteed.

And Matt Forte sits at home with the franchise tag.

It's clear now that the $14 million in guaranteed money the Chicago Bears were offering Forte last season is ridiculously low. The market dictates what players are paid. With the guaranteed money received by comparable running backs Adrian Peterson ($36 million), Chris Johnson ($30 million) and DeAngelo Williams ($21 million) last season, the Bears' offer looks like a joke.

Forte was absolutely correct in not signing the scraps Chicago was willing to offer. He's a 26-year-old Pro Bowl running back about to enter his prime. Taking such an insulting offer would have been doing him and his family a disservice.

RB Matt Forte
Rob Grabowksi/US Presswire

The Bears and Forte have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal before his $7.7 million tag becomes official. Forte has proven to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, leading the league in yards from scrimmage for most of the 2011 campaign. The same can be said for Foster, yet Lynch is nothing more than a first- and second-down pounder.

If a long-term deal is going to get done, the Bears must give Forte at least $18 million, and likely closer to $20 million, in guaranteed money. That's what the market says he should be paid. Numbers don't lie.

Yet are the Bears correct in refusing to overpay for a running back – a position that continues to be devalued in today's NFL?

Consider this, after receiving their huge contracts last season, here were the number for Johnson and Williams in 2011: Johnson, 1,047 rushing yards, 4.0 ypc, 4 TDs – all career lows; Williams, 14 games started, 836 rushing yards.

For players who broke the bank in the offseason, those numbers don't add up. On top of that, Peterson tore his ACL late in the season last year.

If you're the Bears and you're looking at three guys who got paid – one lost to a major injury and the other two performing well below their abilities – does it really make sense to break the bank for Forte?

That's the debate raging in Chicago.

The bar has been set and there's really no way the organization can get around those numbers. Yet if they choose to tag Forte for the next two seasons, he'll earn more than the $18 million Lynch is guaranteed.

It's quite a conundrum. Both parties have leverage. It will be interesting to see which side breaks first.

Receiver notes

The Buffalo Bills this morning signed WR Steve Johnson to a five-year deal worth $36.25 million, with $19.5 million guaranteed. This sets the bar for all of the top free agent wide receivers.

Players like Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston – assuming none are tagged before today's 3 p.m. franchise tag deadline – will be looking for deals comparable to Johnson's.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and 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.

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