- Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears beat reporter
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CHICAGO – With phase one of the Chicago Bears’ voluntary offseason program over, the team transitions to a three-day voluntary minicamp scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday at Halas Hall.
Forte, entering the final year of his contract, announced on Twitter on April 13 that he decided to remain in South Florida to train instead of participating in the opening phase of the offseason program that featured strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation.
Bennett’s decision to skip the first two weeks of the program went unannounced.
Although Bennett stopped by Halas Hall one day this week to greet teammates, he did not officially participate in the phase one portion of the program, according to multiple sources.
Bennett is coming off a career year in 2014 where he topped all NFL tight ends in catches (90) and also set personal bests in receiving yards (1,038) and touchdowns (six).
He was a late addition to the Pro Bowl roster after New England’s Rob Gronkowski pulled out following the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory, making Bennett the first Chicago tight end selected to the Pro Bowl since Mike Ditka in 1965.
Bennett signed a four-year, $20.4 million deal with $9.215 million in guarantees on March 13, 2013. His compensation for 2015 is scheduled to include a $4.9 million base salary and $100,000 workout bonus.
Since joining the Bears, Bennett has 155 catches for 1,675 yards and 11 touchdowns.
However, Bennett’s average per year salary of his current deal ($5.1 million) places him far down the list amongst the NFL’s highest paid tight ends. Seattle’s Jimmy Graham tops the list at $10 million per season, followed by 11 other tight ends averaging a minimum of $6.4 million per year.
Next week should provide the Bears with a clearer understanding of Forte and Bennett’s offseason intentions.
Are these two key offensive veterans staying away because they're unhappy with the contracts? We'll know more this week.