Silverman: Bears Playing Forte For A Fool

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 small Silverman: Bears Playing Forte For A Fool

Steve Silverman

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, 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.

  • Jeremy Carnahan

    I’ll just say this…There are two sides to each negotiation and not one of us are on either side.

    • Nellie

      The ears pay the white guys and make the black guys beg.

  • Jimmy Mac

    I’m sure someone wrote the same article for Chris Johnson… and then he disappeared. You can’t be this naive when you’re sitting there writing this article. Forte has been injured in 2 of his 4 seasons here, and his 2nd season he completely dropped off the map.

    I can understand the Bears hesitation to pay him big money, especially when you need that money to make moves in free agency thanks to the previous general manager who left the big play positions in flux for the better part of his career.

    The Bears also offered Forte a generous contract at the beginning of the season with around $14 mil guaranteed which he turned down. Forte cannot expect the same money as the backs you mentioned because he’s not the same kind of back. He won’t kill you out of the backfield like Williams will, Forte is more of a pass catching and screen threat. And by no means has he carried the team. He has been an absolutely huge part of the offense, but anyone who watched the games knows how things went down, and Cutler played just as big of a part as Forte did in the Bears wins.

    Bears made the right move in franchising him for now, making their free agent splash with V-Jax (hopefully) and then negotiating with Forte based on what they can afford after that point.

    Don’t sit there and act like you know what’s going on when you’re not behind the closed doors at Halas Hall.

    • Meatless Meatball

      There’s another, better reason why Silverman is so off-base here: running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL. You pay elite money for O-linemen, D-linemen, QBs, and maybe, MAYBE linebackers and corners/safeties, if — and that’s a BIG IF — they are legendary talents (say, a Brian Urlacher or a Charles Woodson). But running backs? Puh-leeze. It’s a passing league. Anyone advocating breaking the bank to sign Forte to a long-term deal hasn’t actually watched the NFL since the 1980s.

      • Markie Maypo

        I’m glad there are other people that think with their head and not just their hearts. I like Forte too, I’d love to see him play his whole career with the Bears. But that doesn’t mean you take an unnecessary risk by paying him too much money. I’m sorry, but He IS NOT WORTH Arian Foster money. I know, he’s got all the stats, but he also has been the ONLY thing the Bears have had. Next year? Won’t be the same way. He’s a “good” back, not a “great” one. Not to mention he’s already over the life-expectancy for a running back in this league. The Bears have to be smart, and Forte needs to realize it.

  • jared

    Was this written by a junior high student? It sounds like a 7th grader reading a report in class. “Hello, my name is Steve. I write about sports. I like football. Matt Forte is a nice guy. The Bears are mean. The End.”

  • Judge Smail's Slick Putter

    Once again, I find myself with a completely opposing view to that of Mr. Silverman’s. Instead of just focusing on the franchising of Forte, it should have been balanced with the timeline of his entire career in Chicago.

    The Score should consider placing Jimmy Mac’s comments as the actual story and place Silverman’s story as a user comment.

  • Paul

    only FOOL here is silverman. Brees was tagged as were a bunch of other good players. it’s a business you goof.

  • Kevin

    Vincent Jackson will want to sign with the Bears…wait for it…because of the amount of money they offer him. He is 29. This is probably his last deal or at least his last big deal. Like Julius Peppers, if the money is good, he will take it. Peppers did not say, wow…the Bears were cheap with Briggs, I won’t sign with them. He said hmmm, the Bears can offer me more money because they did not pay that money to Briggs. I will take that money.

    Forte is in the same boat as Rice and other quality runners. He will likely get an offer for a long term deal a lttlle better than Marshan Lynch’s. If the Bears bust the bank with Forte, there is less to spend on a quality free agent. Simple as that.

  • Mike

    Forte is probably the best back that the Bears have had in the past 10 years, but that still doesn’t make him “elite.” Elite runners can score from anywhere on the field, but Forte can’t. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past four years, you’ll know that Forte, with his darting and hopping running style, struggles mightily to get the ball in the end zone from within the opposition’s five-yard line. He’s not big or strong enough to move the pile when it really counts which is why the Bears settle for so many short Robbie Gould field goals when they should be putting 7 points on the board. Give Forte a fair offer, but spend the real money on signing a quality free agent receiver and a first round draft pick receiver. It’s a passing league now and I don’t care if the Bears had Walter Payton in the backfield, they would still underachieve on offense. They need to upgrade their Smurf wide receivers now or they are wasting the talents of the best QB they have ever had. (Another quality lineman wouldn’t hurt either since they seem to drop like flies during the season.)

    • ATfan2114


  • Ollie

    This article is so dumb! The players no that this is a business. Free agents don’t care that Forte was franchised.

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  • Bearfan1973

    Silverman….were you high when you wrote this or did you just take a stupid pill? Forte is a good back but is the second best in the division (as much as I hate to say it, being a Bears fan and all, but Peterson is better). Forte should get about $16 mil guarenteed and a 5 year contract for about $30mil.

  • Mike in Houston

    You start with, “Your name is Matt Forte and you are seething.”

    I would guess all , or nearly all, players who are franchised are seething. They all want big, new contracts with a big guarantee. The team can’t, or won’t, commit that much money and cap space. Hence, the franchise tag is applied.

    Players might not like it, but I understand in the latest CBA negotiation the union did not fight it. So if a player doesn’t like it, he should take it up with the union.

    That being said, I love Forte. I hope he’s a Bear as long as he can play. But the Bears have too many holes to lock him up with a lot of money.

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