Chicago Bears: franchise tag

Bears tag DT Henry Melton

March, 1, 2013
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The Chicago Bears have placed their franchise tag on Henry Melton, the defensive tackle's agent, Jordan Woy, confirmed Friday.

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Source: Melton's camp expects tag

March, 1, 2013
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Henry MeltonAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTagging Henry Melton would come at a big price, but losing him could be more costly.
Representatives for Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton hadn’t heard from the team as of Friday afternoon, according to an NFL source, but they anticipate the club applying the franchise tag before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

General manager Phil Emery declined to divulge any information recently about how the team plans to proceed with Melton, per the GM's typical custom regarding contract matters.

The tag secures the services of the player for at least the next season and comes with a guaranteed 2013 salary of $8.45 million for defensive tackles, according to a memo from the NFL and NFLPA obtained by NFL Network.

"We'll be talking to Henry, and when we come to a conclusion, everybody will know," Emery said last month at the NFL combine.

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Podcast: Schefter talks Bears, Melton

February, 26, 2013
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ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter joined "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" and speculated as to what the Chicago Bears' offseason moves might be in regard to 26-year-old defensive tackle Henry Melton, who had six sacks last season.

"I would expect that they end up tagging Henry Melton in the end if they can't get a long-term deal done, and I think they will try to get a long-term deal done with him," Schefter said. "But I think when you're looking at a defensive tackle at that age with those pass-rush skills you can't risk losing him.

"So I think the franchise tag number for Henry Melton is above $8 million per year. And I would expect Henry Melton will be back in Chicago whether that's on a long-term contract or whether it's on the franchise tag, but they're not going to let Henry Melton get away."

Emery mum on franchising Melton

February, 21, 2013
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[+] EnlargeHenry Melton
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports As valuable as Henry Melton is, franchising him may be too costly for the Bears.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery remained mum Thursday when asked whether the team plans to place the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton to prevent him from departing via free agency.

"We'll work through that situation," Emery said during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. "Obviously, we'll be talking to Henry. When we come to a conclusion, everybody will know."

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Sources: Franchised stars to hold out

April, 15, 2012
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Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Bears running back Matt Forte and Ravens running back Ray Rice are not expected to report to the start of the team's voluntary workouts Monday after being tagged as their teams' franchise players, according to league sources.

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No signed deal, no Forte at workouts

April, 9, 2012
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Not surprising, but Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte likely won’t attend the start of the club’s voluntary offseason conditioning program starting on April 16 due to the stalemate between the sides in contract negotiations.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe key date for Matt Forte and the Bears is July 16, the deadline for teams to sign franchise players to multi-year extensions.
Designated the team’s franchise player, Forte received a tender from the team worth $7.7 million for the 2012 season. But if he doesn’t sign the tender or ink a long-term pact with the club in the next seven days, Forte won’t be in attendance for the voluntary workouts.

Bears coach Lovie Smith remains upbeat about the situation, saying just last week that he thinks the deal “will get done eventually.”

Although the sides don’t appear to be making much progress in working out a long-term agreement, the Bears continue to express optimism publicly. Forte’s representation, meanwhile, has remained silent in recent weeks.

“Contracts are a very individual matter and a very private matter,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said last week during a conference call with season-ticket holders. “So I’m not going to get into specifics. I will just say that we’re both working in a positive direction to come to a positive conclusion for everybody.”

Smith pointed out the fact Forte “hasn’t missed anything that we’ve ever done,” recently at the NFL owners meetings, adding that “I don’t think we need to get too caught up in it.” But given the lack of progress in negotiations, it appears Forte is poised to miss the start of the offseason conditioning program.

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Tagged players out of running for Bears

March, 5, 2012
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When the franchise tag deadline passed at 3 CT on Monday, 21 potential unrestricted free agents had been taken off the market. Here is a quick look at some key players who will now be off the Bears' radar once free agency officially begins on March 13.

[+] EnlargeCliff Avril
Mike Carter/US PresswireDetroit defensive end Cliff Avril had 11 sacks last season.
1. Cliff Avril, DE, Lions: One of the top pass-rushers set to hit the open market, the Lions made it known early in the offseason the defensive end was a likely candidate for the franchise tag. Still, it's tough to fault the Bears for being interested in Avril, who had a career year in 2011 with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. Avril would have made sense considering the Bears are looking to upgrade their pass rush and find a stronger compliment to Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. Most league observers agree the 25-year-old Avril is about to enter the prime of his career, which is why Detroit was willing to pay $10.6 million to retain his services for at least another season.

2. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: New Bears general manager Phil Emery spent three years with Bowe in Kansas City, where the receiver posted monster numbers in 2010 with 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. Bowe followed up that season with a solid 2011 (81-1,159-5) even though starting quarterback Matt Cassel was lost for the final seven games due to injury. Bowe would have been an immediate upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver, where the team needs to find a proven playmaker to pair with quarterback Jay Cutler.

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Bears place tag on Matt Forte

March, 2, 2012
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The Chicago Bears announced on Friday that they applied the franchise designation to running back Matt Forte as the sides continue to work on a long-term contract.

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No Forte tag yet may be a good sign

March, 1, 2012
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No news might serve as a sliver of optimism regarding Matt Forte's prospects for signing a long-term contract extension with the Chicago Bears prior to the league-mandated Monday deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag to players.

The Philadelphia Eagles -- 11 days into the 15-day window -- became the first team to designate a franchise player on Thursday, applying the tag to receiver DeSean Jackson, thus taking a potential target of the receiver-starved Bears off the free-agent market.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireBears running back Matt Forte was leading the league in yards from scrimmage last season before suffering a knee injury.
While sources said that representatives for Forte spoke with the Bears at the NFL Combine last week, it's unclear where the sides stand in consummating a new deal. But the fact the Bears didn't tag Forte on Thursday might mean the sides remain in serious discussions, and a move -- whether it's the franchise tag or an announcement of a new deal -- could be coming soon.

Exactly one week ago, Bears coach Lovie Smith seemed confident the sides would come to an agreement.

"Matt is going to play his football for the Chicago Bears, you start with that," Smith said from the NFL Combine. "In time, hopefully we can get an agreement in place that suits Matt, and we feel comfortable with. I think it's just a matter of time. That will happen eventually."

Negotiations between the sides skid to a halt over the summer when the Bears offered betweent $13 and $14 million in guarantees, according to a source. Surely the team's initial offer will increase to near the $20 million range in guarantees with the running back coming off his first selection to the Pro Bowl. The club's acquisition of Phil Emery as the new general manager also seems to have generated optimism that the sides can come to an accord.

"The team hasn't changed its approach to Matt Forte, at all," Smith said. "We are on record [as] to how important Matt is to our organization."

Forte gained 1,487 yards from scrimmage, and led the league in that category before a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee sidelined the running back for the final four games of the season.

The deadline for the team to apply the franchise tag -- which will be $7.7 million -- is Monday, but it's not out of the realm of possibility the sides could reach a long-term deal before then.

Given the team's myriad needs and the fact that free agency and the draft are on the horizon, the Bears surely would like to reach a deal with money already set aside for Forte so they can move forward with other plans with no uncertainty.

Tag could come soon as Monday for Forte

February, 14, 2012
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If the sides don't put together a contract extension soon, the next development in the Matt Forte contract saga could take place next Monday when the league allows teams to apply the franchise tag to players.

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Forte OK with tag if it leads to deal

February, 2, 2012
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Matt Forte said he would be fine with the Chicago Bears using the franchise tag on him as long as it leads to a long-term deal and is not simply a tactic to keep him off the free agent market for another season.

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Phillips: Forte won't get to free agency

January, 31, 2012
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New Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has plenty of issues to address as he gets to work at Halas Hall. With three weeks to decide whether to apply the franchise tag on Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte, Emery's boss said Tuesday that the Bears won't let the Pro Bowl running back reach free agency.

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Forte doesn't feel loyalty from Bears

November, 1, 2011
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LAKE FOREST -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte said the organization's plan to apply the franchise tag after the season rather than sign him to the contract extension he had hoped for may guarantee he will remain a Bear through 2013 but it does not leave Forte with a feeling of loyalty from the team.

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What could franchise tag mean for Forte?

October, 31, 2011
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TBDDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireThe Bears' Matt Forte leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,091.
Given Matt Forte's monstrous production and the indisputable fact his value only continues to rise, the dirty side of contract negotiations kick in with the Bears reportedly planning to use their franchise tag, barring a breakthrough between now and February.

The development certainly wasn’t unexpected. But it opens the door for exploration into what the tag could mean for Forte, 25, should the Bears choose to delay the running back’s availability in free agency by using the franchise designation on multiple occasions.

Forte enters his fifth year in 2012 at age 26, and there’s sufficient evidence to suggest the Bears wouldn’t be making a mistake by signing him to a long-term deal by then. The common perception seems to be that a running back’s production tapers off after four years, but according to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s not always the case.

Focusing on players that had already been well established before their fifth season (Tiki Barber and Thomas Jones were excluded), ESPN Stats & Information examined a handful of notable running backs that played seasons five through seven since 2000, and excluded players that aren’t playing in their eighth season in 2011 to allow for additional career perspective (which excludes players such as Steven Jackson and Michael Turner).

Only two running backs -- Shaun Alexander and Corey Dillon -- of the six studied failed to rush for more than 1,200 yards in their seventh season. Two others -- Fred Taylor and Edgerrin James -- enjoyed multiple 1,000-yard seasons after Year 7, while Dillon’s best season didn’t come until Year 8 (career highs with 345 rushes for 1,635 yards).

Teams can use the franchise tag on a player three separate times with significant increases on one-year guaranteed salaries for each additional year the player is tagged.

The 2012 franchise tag for running backs is projected at $7.71 million (Forte was willing to take $7.8 million prior to the season, according to multiple sources), with that figure growing the next year to more than $9 million.

So looking at this optimistically from Forte’s standpoint, the running back could be in line to receive more guaranteed compensation in the next two years -- if he’s franchised -- than what the Bears offered (between $13 and $14 million guaranteed) prior to the season over six years, which is why the running back won’t sign the team’s latest deal.

But that’s not much consolation considering Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson signed deals worth $36 million guaranteed and $30 million guaranteed, respectively.

“That's not something I'm looking forward to," Forte said Friday on "Rome is Burning" on ESPN. "I don't want a one-year deal. I want a long-term extension. I think if they use the franchise tag that's kind of a cheap way to go out. I want a long-term extension. I've been drafted by Chicago. I want to stay there so it's not something I'm looking forward to. Everybody who is doing anything no matter what you're doing if you're working and doing an exceptional job, you want your boss to kind of notice that and not a pat on the back but compensate you for what you're doing. That's in anything you're doing. It kind of makes you feel undervalued."

There’s also the injury risk, which Forte feels he’s assumed since signing his rookie deal in 2008. The running back has insurance policies in place to mitigate the risk, but the policies only pay out if Forte suffers a career-ending injury.

“There is the risk of injury, but I just pray before every game that God keeps me healthy out on the field, and I continue to do good work out there,” Forte said. “It’s really up to them to do the contract thing. Me and my agent, our door is always open.”

From the team’s perspective, surely the club is strongly considering Forte’s potential shelf life in determining a fair deal. Forte averaged a little more than 327 touches over his first three seasons and is on pace for 370. It doesn’t help Forte that Johnson has floundered since signing his extension.

It’s also worth noting that Chicago director of player personnel Tim Ruskell experienced the downside to paying out big money to a running back in 2006, when as president of the Seattle Seahawks he gave Alexander an eight-year deal worth $62 million ($15 million guaranteed) only to see the 2005 Most Valuable Player hobble to less than mediocre production for the rest of his career.

The difference is that Alexander was 29 when he signed that deal, while Forte is just 25.

So while there’s tremendous risk for a team signing a running back to a second contract, the Bears must realistically calculate the potential pitfalls and act accordingly.

Apparently, the organization, as general manager Jerry Angelo put it, has drawn its “line in the sand.”

In approximately two weeks when teams can no longer use 2011 salary cap room to extend players -- that line, or better yet the franchise tag -- likely becomes reality.

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