Lance Briggs is beginning to age, yet he’s still a crucial, irreplaceable part of the Bears’ defense. That’s why keeping him happy became a priority for new GM Phil Emery, and earlier this afternoon a one-year contract extension was finalized for the outside linebacker. Although it was termed an extension, the structure of the contract effectively gives Briggs a new three-year deal worth $17.5 million, $8.25 million of which is guaranteed. The seven-time Pro Bowler is now under contract until he’s 34.
Sadly, at 26 Matt Forte is already kind of, sort of beginning to age as a running back. He’s crucial too, yet he’s very replaceable, and he’s also well aware that nice guys finish last. This is where we’re at now in the latest NFL standoff which proves that the running back position gets much of the glory for four-to-five months of the year, but little respect throughout the rest of the calendar.
The 31-year-old Briggs has been secured, and given a reason to smile while briskly walking to the nearest banking establishment. He’s also openly talking about his fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher getting an extension too. Urlacher will turn 34 in May, and next March his contract will expire. He’ll almost certainly get paid, and a Windy City legend will finish his career where it started while still playing when he’s on the wrong side of 35.
Yet Forte still sits waiting, and hoping. He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. He was quite predictably slapped with the franchise tag, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported today that he’s not signing anything unless it’s a long-term deal. Until he has that contract in his hands, we won’t see Forte in Chicago during the offseason, and likely not during training camp either.
A holdout is the only way Forte can regain leverage, since all the power is given to Emery through the franchise tag. But the result of two stubborn, easily justifiable positions is that neither side will be completely happy with the outcome.
Forte’s ammunition is limited to a holdout, but Emery gave himself further leverage by signing Michael Bush. If Forte threatens to do his best Vincent Jackson impression, he risks the Bears discovering that life without an expensive running back is quite nice. Bush had four games with at least 90 rushing yards over just nine starts last year when he stepped in for Darren McFadden in Oakland. While he’d be a downgrade in a starting role, the gap between Bush and Forte is much smaller than the chasm that was separating Forte and Marion Barber.
There’s also the addition of Brandon Marshall, which should greatly reduce the Bears’ reliance on the running game. Add it all up, and the extension of a key veteran today is yet another reminder that it’ll be difficult for Forte to win his battle, even though he more than deserves his payday.
This is why holdouts happen, kids, not because of selfishness.