Yesterday, after a year of negotiations, the Chicago Bears and Matt Forte agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $32 million. Technically, the deal is worth $28 million and includes $4 million in escalators. If Forte fails to reach his escalators, the contract will be worth just $7 million per season.
When you consider what Forte has accomplished in four seasons in the NFL, this is a downright steal for the Bears organization.
Forte career notes:
-First and only player in NFL history with 900 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons.
-Since joining the NFL in 2008, his 6,218 yards from scrimmage are sixth best in the league, and fifth best in Bears history.
-Since 2008, Forte is third among NFL running back in receiving yards with 1,985 and second in receptions with 223. His eight touchdown receptions are tied for third among his position during that time.
-His 123.9 yards from scrimmage in 2011 was third best in the league.
-Despite missing the final four contests in 2011, he finished 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
-Last year, Forte's 83.1 rushing yards per game ranked 6th in the league.
-His 4.9 yards per carry in 2011 was seventh best among backs with at least 150 carries.
RB Matt Forte
Rob Grabowski/US Presswire
That is one heck of an achievement list, one with which only a few other running backs can compete. In essence, Forte has proven himself to be one of the top all-around backs in the NFL. Unless your name is Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy, Forte has outperformed you over the past four years.
Yet the Bears, threw unflappable patience and stubbornness, were able to extend one of the best players in the league at a considerable bargain. Chicago was willing to pay Forte $7.7 million this year under the franchise tag, and was ready to tag him again next year at nearly $10 million. By giving him $17 million guaranteed, the club paid out those franchise tags yet locked up Forte for an additional two years.
Most of the recent contracts given to running backs have been five-year deals, yet Forte signed for just four years, giving him the opportunity at a second payday later in his career. For that luxury, he will be paid slightly below market value relative to other comparable ball carriers.
Consider the contracts paid out to running backs the past two years: Peterson (7 yrs, $100 MIL, $36 MIL guaranteed), DeAngelo Williams (5 yrs, $43 MIL, $21 MIL guaranteed), Chris Johnson (4 yrs, $53 MIL, $30 MIL guaranteed), Foster (5 yrs, $43.5 MIL, $20.75 MIL guaranteed), McCoy (5 yrs, $45 MIL, $20.765 MIL guaranteed) and Marshawn Lynch (4 yrs, $31 MIL, $17 MIL guaranteed).
Ravens running back Ray Rice also received a long-term deal yesterday. His was for five years and $40 million, with $24 million guaranteed. On a yearly basis, Rice and Forte appear to have similar salaries but look closer and you'll see Rice with a much better deal.
In 2012, Rice will make $17 million; Forte will make just $9.8 million. Over the first three years, Rice will make $29 million and Forte will make $21 million. For a position as volatile as running back, Rice's front-loaded contract is a much better deal.
So, despite Forte outplaying the vast majority of his counterparts, he will get paid less than almost all of them, and the Bears are only on the hook for four years, not five. Compromises were made on both sides to get this deal done, although it appears Forte bended much more than the organization.
Cliff Stein, Chicago's lead contract negotiator, is considered one of the best in the business, and the Forte deal once again shows why. And overseeing it all was new GM Phil Emery, who gave raises to both Forte and Lance Briggs this offseason, which puts him in the good graces of his players.
Yesterday, Bears brass made the team's best offensive player happy, while not sacrificing the near-term future of the franchise. Well done.
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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.