The contract impasse between Matt Forte and the Bears is among the more closely watched personnel stories in the NFL this offseason. Fortes presence or absence projects as a factor in any balance-of-power discussion in the NFC North specifically and the NFC in general.
The team, from President Ted Phillips to GM Phil Emery to coach Lovie Smith, has been consistent that Forte will be in Chicago, period, this season. But some other teams can be forgiven for playing what-if with the unhappy running back.
CSNNE.com colleague Tom Curran and columnist Rich Levine elaborate on a Rotoworld.com assessment that Forte might be a trade prospect for the New England Patriots.
No scenario has been floated by credible Bears sources where that has been a possibility. But it wouldnt be the first time that the Bears and Patriots talked about a deal involving a major running back.
The Pats wanted to trade with the Bears on draft day 1998, giving the Bears the 18th and 22nd picks of the first round in exchange for the Bears at No. 5. The target was running back Curtis Enis.
No deal was concluded (the Jacksonville Jaguars offered more but Jags chief Tom Coughlin so angered Mark Hatley that the Bears hung up the phone and took Enis). And one isnt likely in the Forte case as well.
The problem, as it is right now in Chicago, is money. Forte has not agreed to the Bears long-term offer with guaranteed money in the double-digit millions, and the Patriots not too long ago went through a testy situation with an unhappy player under a franchise tag (guard Logan Mankins). Theyre unlikely to take on another without working out the money, and they are a team that has not invested heavily in running backs in the past.
Besides, if Forte holds out, the Bears wont have their No. 1 back but they signed Michael Bush and would be saving more than 450,000 per Forte-less game.
The Bears did not cave in on Lance Briggs during his franchise-tag contretemps. They will listen to offers everyone does but that should be as far as it goes.
Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."