By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) By now, we’ve seen both sides of Matt Forte.
We’ve seen the “team-first” Forte, and the “me-first” Forte.
Before the start of the 2011 season, it was clear Forte deserved a raise. He had outgrown his rookie contract, and, as is such in the NFL, deserved more guaranteed money.
The Bears, too, saw this and offered the running back a contract worth a reported $14 million in guaranteed money. Forte felt he deserved more, so the two sides decided to put contract negotiations on hold. Forte played out the rest of his contract, earning his first-ever Pro Bowl nomination.
When the negotiations between the Bears and Forte began, it was hard to not admire the attitude and approach the running back took. Rather than engage in a public outcry for more money, he decided to let his on-field performance speak for itself.
That’s what sparked the “Pay Forte” movement. Fans saw Forte’s team-first approach, so they lobbied for him.
When the Bears slapped the franchise tag on him, things began to change.
Right or wrong, Forte was upset. The signing of backup running back Michael Bush to a four-year deal worth $7 million in guaranteed money added even more fuel to the fire that had been burning inside.
“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected!” Forte Tweeted after the signing of Bush. “Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last.”
Forte’s right – he did everything he was asked to do. He showed up, worked hard and achieved success.
And there’s nothing wrong with him wanting more than the $7.7 million he’s set to earn in 2012 via the franchise tag. He’s earned the right to negotiate the terms of his contract.
Forte’s downfall was when he let those internal frustrations become external outbursts. The backlash from that single Tweet has painted Forte as a greedy, selfish player, discontent with the roughly 1,400% raise he was offered.
Arguably Forte’s biggest mistake was a tactical one, though.
He should have taken the long-term deal that was offered to him before the start of last season. Forte turned down the opportunity to make a reported $6 million in 2011 because he wanted more guaranteed money in the long run. Instead, he chose to play out the final year of his deal, earning $600,000.
Now, he’s lost that year and the money he could have made. He’ll never get that back. Even if he can squeeze a few more million out of the Bears in a long-term deal, he’s lost that money from 2011.
Running backs only have a few solid years of production before age, injury and ultimately ineffectiveness force them out of the league.
Still, the Bears reportedly have a “strong” offer on the table – one Forte would be wise to accept.
“I think not only do we appreciate him and have told him so, but I think the offer we’ve made him shows that, too,” Bears CEO Ted Phillips told the Sun-Times. “Now, different people can disagree on the ultimate value, but we feel we’ve made a strong offer to him, and are still hopeful he accepts it.”
So, Forte, whether or not you take the deal is your choice, but if you don’t, keep the negotiations – and your discontentment – quiet.
No one wants to hear you’re unhappy with your $7.7 million salary.
Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.