There are several undeniable truths about Matt Forte:
1. He’s a pretty good football player.
2. He really wants to get paid.
3. He’s starting to hate the Bears organization
The third one may be up for debate in the future. But since we’re speaking in the present tense, there’s little doubt about the running back’s lack of fondness for Bears management, the same front office that paid him $600,000 last year when he rushed for 997 yards on 4.9 yards per carry, and he played in just 12 games. Chris Johnson had only 50 more yards than Forte while playing a full season, and he’ll make $8 million next year.
Predictably, Forte wasn’t pleased when the Bears signed Michael Bush to a four-year contract earlier this afternoon, a signing that functions as injury insurance, but also leverage. It’s that last part that probably made the 26-year-old do some angry keyboard mashing that turned into this Twitter rage…
Forte’s agent Adisa Bakari provided some context in a statement given to ESPN:
“Since drafting Matt in 2008, the Bears have signed Kevin Jones, Chester Taylor and Marion Barber, all ostensibly to serve as Matt’s backup. To sign yet another running back, prior to completing a contract with Matt suggests disregard for Matt and his contributions to the Bears.”
For general managers, dealing with the realities of doing business in the NFL means balancing the limitations of the human body with the mandated limitations of your pocketbook because of the league’s salary cap. Forte must know this, but that knowledge isn’t making his situation any easier.
The Bears aren’t better off with their Pro Bowl-caliber running back sulking, and maybe doing his best Vincent Jackson imitation next season if they can’t agree on a long-term deal. But today that life without Forte became slightly easier with the introduction of Bush, a quality power running back who has fresh legs, and is capable of shouldering a heavy load.
Bush is getting $7 million in guaranteed money, which is only slightly less than what Forte will make next year if he plays under the franchise tag ($7.7 million). That minimal gap could mean today’s signing was more than just a leverage play, and it’s time to start seriously wondering if GM Phil Emery truly intends to give Forte a long-term contract.