Forte's absence at workouts not surprising

Due to the franchise tag, Bears running back Matt Forte isn't expected to show up for next week's voluntary offseason workouts. This is not an unexpected development.

Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery has consistently stated that the team and running back Matt Forte are still in the process of negotiating a long-term contract.

Yet progress has been painfully slow.

Emery said the club has made a strong offer to Forte and that the ball is now in his court. What's at stake is guaranteed money, and it's believed the Bears are offering the club's best player less than the $18 million guaranteed the Seattle Seahawks recently gave Marshawn Lynch.

Last season, Adrian Peterson got $36 million guaranteed, Chris Johnson got $30 million and DeAngelo Williams got $21 million. A few weeks ago, the Texans dropped $20.75 million in guaranteed money on Arian Foster.

Last season, while he was healthy, Forte outplayed each and every one of those running backs. He led the league in all-purpose yards for most of the campaign.


RB Matt Forte
Streeter Lecka/US Presswire

It's easy to see why he feels he's being low-balled and disrespected. At the same time, it's easy to see the organization's side of the argument. This league becomes pass happier by the season and the two-back system is prevalent on all but a handful of rosters.

Running backs just don't have the value they did five years ago. The Bears understand this and aren't going to overpay for a player at a volatile position with a short shelf life. Forte is only 26, about to enter his prime, yet most NFL backs begin to fade by 28.

That window for production is tiny. If Chicago invests heavily in him and he follows the typical career curve of a pro ball carrier, the club will regret in a few years.

So what you have is a stalemate, one that's been in place since last offseason. With no progress having been made over a year's time, it's doubtful a breakthrough is going to happen any time soon.

So it should come as no surprise that Forte will not be showing up for voluntary team workouts, which begin next Monday, April 16. He has expressed publicly his dissatisfaction with the organization on numerous occasions. His absence at next week's workouts is just an expected manifestation of that frustration.

It's not a good sign as far as his potential to holdout in training camp, which remains a very real possibility, but it's nothing to sweat about yet. These are just voluntary workouts.

The two sides have until July 16 to workout a long-term contract. If a deal can't be reached by then, Forte must either sign his $7.7 million franchise tender or begin his holdout.

In three month's time, anything could happen.

Last offseason, when he was set to make just $550,000, Forte showed up to camp on time and in the best shape of his life. Missing a few team workouts shouldn't have any affect on his on-field performance, assuming he chooses to step on the field.

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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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