It was reported just a few minutes ago – Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times first broke the story – the Chicago Bears and Matt Forte have agreed to terms on a four-year deal. After more than a year of negotiating, the saga has ended. The Bears having finally inked the team's starting running back.
According to Adam Schefter, the deal is worth $8 million annually, and reportedly includes more than $18 million in guaranteed money. The Bears have not yet confirmed the contract.
Negotiations toward a new deal began last offseason between Forte's agent, Adisa Bakari, and former Bears GM Jerry Angelo. The two sides were hung up on guaranteed money. Forte was looking to get in the range of $20 million in guarantees, yet Angelo was only willing to offer $14 million. Negotiations stalled before the 2011 season and did not pick up again until after Angelo's departure.
OC Mike Tice
New GM Phil Emery, while taking longer than most expected, was able to accomplish what Angelo could not. The best player on Chicago's offense finally got paid and will be in training camp, a happy man, from Day 1.
Forte is about to enter his fifth season in the league. Before injuring his knee in Week 13 last year, he was leading the league in all-purpose yards, earning him his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Forte is the first player in NFL history with 900 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons; the first player in franchise history with 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage in each of his first four NFL seasons; the first player in franchise history with 900 rushing yards in each of his first four seasons with the team; and the first running back in franchise history with 400 receiving yards in four seasons.
Yet despite his achievements, the Bears were not willing to dump a ton of money on Forte, who plays a volatile position with an extremely short shelf life. Despite the huge contracts handed out the past few years to similar NFL running backs, Chicago held firm.
Overall though, the club was forced to cave in to the PR pressure built during this long-running soap opera. They did the right thing by inking the motor which keeps Chicago's offense running. Emery has shown a willingness to reward the franchise's own players – he also gave more money to Lance Briggs this offseason – which gives him credibility in the locker room.
The deal means every single Bears player is under contract heading into training camp next week. It also gives Chicago one of the deepest trios of running backs in the league, with Michael Bush and Kahlil Bell rounding out the backfield.
Everyone can now take a deep breath before the chaos of training camp is upon us.
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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.