Three possible outcomes to the Forte contract situation


Three possible outcomes to the Forte contract situation

The ripples from DeSean Jacksons five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, calling for 45 million and guaranteeing almost 21 million of it, may indeed come west as far as Chicago. But whether they reach as far as Matt Forte is still far from clear.

It can go one of three ways:

Situation unchanged

The Bears have the franchise tag in place and Forte is guaranteed 7.7 million when if he signs it. They hold the ace of trump here, just as the Baltimore Ravens do with running back Ray Rice, and they are within their collectively bargained rights to use the option accorded them.

Working in the Bears favor is what just transpired in New England, where All-Pro receiver Wes Welker just signed his franchise-tag tender offer for the one-year 9.5 million.

The notable element here is that players typically dont mind the tag as long as they view the situation as moving toward a long-term deal. Even Forte was of that mind.

Welker signed the tender, however, not because a deal was imminent, but just the opposite--that talks were getting worse.

He wasnt going to pass on the offseason sessions and wasnt seeing anything that said the team was coming his way financially.

His teammate, guard Logan Mankins, told during Super Bowl week that he signed his franchise-tag tender generally for a related reason He didnt see the Patriots moving and getting something done with him and he simply said the amount of the tag money was too big for him to just dig in his heels and hold out.

Forte will be 27 this season. Realistically, the Bears will not tag him for a second year in 2013 (which they can do). He, like Mankins and Welker, may just realize the other side just isnt going to do a deal and take the money and keep running since he has no choice and wont pass on 460,000 per game.

Pay the man

This is the complicated one. The Bears put what they considered a market deal on the table at the outset of training camp last year and they increased it.

Fortes side points to other deals as being the true market value, plus or minus depending on where Forte is valued vs. other top backs.

Brad Biggs over at the Tribune lays out some of the realities involving other contracts for running backs, which ostensibly do set some sort of market for top backs as being with some 20 million in guaranteed money. The Bears havent offered Forte that much and, with 14 million committed to a Michael Bush contract, its no given that they will.

Bears GM Phil Emery and finance man Cliff Stein are evaluating the teams position. They wont cave to public opinion this is business, not a plebiscite.

Split the difference

The best business deals are usually ones in which both sides walk away from the table a little grumpy. Its somewhere between a win-win and lose-lose, which is preferable from someone going away humiliated and beaten and the other fist-pumping at the win.

The question here is how long Forte projects to be performing at the elite level he has achieved. A five-year deal like McCoys works for the Eagles because McCoy is 23 and the team has the five years over which to amortize the money.

The Bears could pose to Forte that his window is not quite what McCoys is, meaning that their paying a 20 million guarantee isnt quite the same on a four-year deal as on a five.

So the Bears are at 14 million guaranteed. Forte wants, say, 20 million. In the middle, conveniently, is 17 million more than the Bears really have to pay and less than Forte probably would command on a truly open market.

The middle ground may be looking better and better to both.

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.