Matt Forte kept losing leverage in his contract standoff that lasted for well over a season.
When a knee injury kept him out for the final three games of last season, he lost leverage. When Adrian Peterson tore his ACL he lost more leverage, with the Bears hesitant to commit long term and financially strap themselves to a player at a frighteningly fragile position.
When Drew Brees and Tom Brady passed for all of the passing yards in 2011, he lost more leverage. Rules forcing defenders to relax and not unscrew the heads of receivers over the middle have led to the beginning of a passing era, which has devalued the presence and importance of the game-changing running back.
He also celebrated another birthday, which loosened his grip on more leverage. Running back and modeling are pretty much the only professions in which 26 is considered sort of, kind of old. Kate Upton will still be terrorizing computer machines that connect to the worldwide web six years from now, and she won’t decline at all even a little bit, right? If she does, I don’t want to live in that world.
So yeah, the odds were against Forte in his quest for long-term financial security. At one point this offseason there was enough contentiousness on his end due to comments made about his knee that he posted a workout video on Twitter to ensure management that his injury has healed just fine, thanks. But as it so often does, a deadline has motivated action, and now Forte won’t be playing under the franchise tag next year.
He’s agreed to a four-year deal, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. ESPN’s Adam Schefter followed up with the financial details, and the contract, which was signed just three hours before the 4 p.m. ET deadline to reach long-term agreements with franchised players, is reportedly worth $32 million.
We’ll have to wait for the guaranteed numbers to make a final stance on this contract and see who got jobbed and who did the jobbing, which means you’ll likely see at least one of those UPDATE tags that scream at you in bold letters at the bottom of this post. But judging by the overall numbers and contracts signed by other premier running backs earlier this offseason, Forte will likely be the jobee here.
Yes, that’s a truly shocking development in NFL monetary negotiations. Running backs getting undercut is a fad that’s grown faster than “Call Me Maybe” covers. Soon, the Cookie Monster will sing something about the plight of the RB, or maybe he’ll just become an RB himself, and be paid solely with delicious baked goods.
Since he’s on the wrong side of 25, the four-year commitment is about the maximum Forte could have expected. He’s under contract until he turns 30, at which point he’ll whither and turn into a dandelion, or something. Still, despite the proverbial age concerns that come with any running back contract, it’s difficult to dispute Forte’s value. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry last year and had 1,487 all-purpose yards despite those three games missed due to injury. His yards came sporadically, which was the product of his inconsistent use by former Bears offensive coordinator and running back slayer Mike Martz. For example, Forte had just 119 yards over the first three games last fall, and then 553 over the next four.
It’s that usage combined with the growth of the passing game and Brandon Marshall’s presence on the Bears’ roster that kept Forte’s contract lower than premium value. He’s still enjoying a nice, pleasant bath in bills today, but his water isn’t nearly as deep as the bath poured by the Vikings for Peterson last year. When he agreed to a seven-year deal last September worth $96 million, Peterson secured a contract that will pay him an average of $13.7 million annually. Peterson has his own tier, while Forte is in a rung just below him at $8 million yearly, and it shows.
Arian Foster agreed to a long-term contract earlier this offseason that will pay him $8.7 million yearly, while LeSean McCoy’s contract signed in May will pay him an average of $7.6 million. The $7-9 million range is the new normal for running backs, and we may not see another Peterson contract until the league’s cycle swings again, and we return to mid-90s football.
UPDATE: The deal comes with $18 million in guaranteed cash, which is only slightly lower than the guaranteed money given to McCoy and Foster, who received just over $20.6 million.