Matt Forte said last week that contract talks with the Bears were ongoing, which is a major positive given that the two sides have until July 16 to agree on anything other than the one-year guaranteed 7.74 million of the franchise tag.
He declined to talk specifics of the talks or what hes seeking. But he inadvertently did just that, although not necessarily at the level hes thinking.
The problem for Forte is that as valuable and complete a back as he is, he is simply going uphill. No fault of his, just the reality.
Forte cited the deals LeSean McCoy received from the Philadelphia Eagles (five years, 45 million, 20.7 million guaranteed) and Arien Foster did with the Houston Texans (four years, 41 million, 20.5 million guaranteed).
The Bears have been using those deals as guideposts, but only to a point (they have leverage, the tag and Michael Bush). And while Forte is essentially and justifiably slotting himself in the player ranges of McCoy and Foster, he will have trouble getting the Bears to view him in the same 20 million-guaranteed range.
The reasons are, for the Bears purposes, pretty simple.
McCoy, 23, is three years younger than Forte and has put up 28 rushing touchdowns on 635 carries while averaging about the same number of pass receptions as Forte for his three NFL seasons and averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
McCoy and Foster average a touchdown about every 22.6 carries. Forte averages one every 48.3.
Foster is the same age as Forte but has scored 29 rushing touchdowns in 659 career carries to Fortes 21 on 1,014 carries. Foster has averaged 4.7 yards per carry with less wear than Forte (4.2).
Forte is spot-on in his observation that the running back position may be in a state of being devalued, but that he is not exactly in that narrow mold of just running back. He is very much a part of a passing offense.
I catch the ball coming out of the backfield, Forte said. If you say its a passing game, well, I catch the ball out of the backfield.
As does Foster, even a tad better than Forte. Foster has averaged nearly 60 catches in his two seasons as the Texans franchise back to Fortes 56.
By Fortes suggested standard, the Bears can rightly say that he is deserving of a top contract but not with the 20 million guaranteed money that his suggested peers received.
My sense is that a deal gets done when one or both sides move, meaning that Forte comes off the 20 million number andor the Bears come off their 14-15 million. That means a deal in the range of 17.5 million guaranteed on a package of four or five years.
The length of deal is significant, because it makes Fortes push for his max even more understandable. In all likelihood, this is Fortes one and last big deal. Hell be 30 or 31 when he is in the market for another one, and that is not where people talk guarantees anywhere close to what is on the table now.