By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Your name is Matt Forte and you are seething.
You have been franchised by the Chicago Bears and that means you will get paid $7.7 million next season by the Chicago Bears. You know this is good money for anyone who is not in the pro football business. But you are in the pro football business and you are the Bears’ best running back.
By a wide margin.
You are also the team’s most consistent offensive player. You run the ball and you catch the ball. You also block like a mad man any time you don’t have the ball in your hands.
You play on a team that has a top-of-the-line quarterback in Jay Cutler, but where would he be if he didn’t have you in the backfield? You run the ball and take pressure off of him. You can get open for him and make clutch catches. The other Bears receivers? Not a go-to guy among them. Role players at best.
It is the offseason and you have just played a season while your agent Adisa Bakari has been talking to and negotiating with the Bears. But while the Bears said they wanted to get you a fair deal, the results were not there. You see DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers sign a 5-year, $43 million deal that include a $21 million signing bonus. Then you see an undrafted free agent in Arian Foster sign a 5-year, $43.5 million deal that includes $18 million in salary for 2012.
You wonder what is going on. Williams and Foster get new deals and you say to yourself that you are just as valuable to your team as those players are to their teams. It doesn’t make sense, you think.
Especially because free agency is coming and players whom the Bears might target can see what is going on with you. A free-agent wide receiver like San Diego’s Vincent Jackson sees what they are doing to you and shakes his head. Why would he want to sign with the Bears? If they pay him big money but they still aren’t paying you, it might not be such a warm welcome for him in the Bears’ locker room. When the new guy gets the money and the guy who has been carrying the team on his shoulders doesn’t get it, it can get ugly.
You know what the whispers are and why they don’t want to pay you what the other backs are getting. Running backs have a short shelf life in the NFL. Running backs don’t win Super Bowls. Running backs can be replaced.
You have heard all this and you understand it. You also understand that the Bears are playing hardball with you. They act like they are not and they use words to indicate how much they want you. But they don’t show you the money. They are playing you. They are mocking you. That goes for Jerry Angelo, the team’s former general manager and Phil Emery, the team’s new general manager.
Perhaps the Bears will come off of their position and take care of you the way the Texans have taken care of Foster and the Panthers have taken care of Williams. Based on the track record, it’s unlikely. But if they eventually come to their senses, the damage may already be done. Free agents will look at the way they treated you and wonder why they wanted to tease you for so long. After they stop thinking about it, those players will sign with other teams. They will not become Chicago Bears.
You started out as a nice guy who was happy to play pro football. Now you are seething.
It’s going to be a long year.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.