Matt Forte could face 'line in the sand'

August, 19, 2011
8/19/11
5:20
PM ET
There were a number of takeaway thoughts from Jerry Angelo's 22-minute appearance Friday on ESPN 1000's "The Waddle & Silvy Show." But for me, the most notable quotes from the Chicago Bears general manager came on the state of tailback Matt Forte's contract negotiations.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireMatt Forte is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
As you know, Forte is entering the final year of a rookie deal that will pay him $550,000 this season. He considered holding out from training camp until Angelo pledged to get a deal done. But the sides don't appear close on an agreement, and when asked if he hoped a deal happens sooner than later, Angelo said: "It's got to happen sooner. I don't like to necessarily go into training camp and negotiate with players. We like to do that in the offseason. Unfortunately, we didn't have the ability to do that, but again we want to do the right thing by Matt so we are talking. We're hopeful, but at some point we have to draw a line in the sand and just now focus on the season."

I guess there are several ways to interpret that statement, but whenever I hear "line in the sand" in regards to a contract negotiation, I tend to raise an eyebrow. You would be well within your rights to think Angelo was suggesting the discussions are close to a "take it or leave it" stage.

If Forte "leaves it," he would at least start the season with a contract set to expire this winter. It doesn't mean the sides couldn't come to an agreement by the end of the season, and it would be smart from a salary-cap perspective to do just that. But if you were hoping for an imminent resolution, Angelo's comment suggested one might not be coming.

Angelo spoke on a wide variety of subjects, including:

  • The condition of the playing surface at Soldier Field. Angelo admitted he has "always been in favor of a fast track" that goes along with an artificial surface, but is on board with the organizational decision to maintain a grass field for safety reasons.
  • The offensive line. Specifically, Angelo said he isn't concerned that the presumptive replacement for center Olin Kreutz, free agent acquisition Chris Spencer, is working with the second team while guard Roberto Garza handles the first-team center duties. "Roberto had ... familiarity with the offense," Angelo said. "How it is eventually going to unfold, the coaches and the players always determine that."
  • Offensive coordinator Mike Martz's contract. Martz has had substantial sway in personnel decisions over the past two years but his contract is set to expire after this season. It wouldn't make sense to part ways with him after basing so many moves on his scheme, and Angelo said: "Historically we've always dealt with our coaches in the offseason and we'll continue to follow that protocol. ... It's not a big deal. Mike gets it. It's part of doing business. Not a story."
  • The Bears' linebacker depth. Angelo admitted: "We've had better depth over the years, but this year is probably the least amount of depth that we've had." He noted that the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 linebackers will all be mostly special-teams players, but that leaves an obvious hole should a starter get sidelined.
  • His draft-day failure to complete a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Angelo said he reached out to Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who had accused the Bears of intentionally botching the trade, and "we cleared the air." Angelo said he thinks he will be able to conduct normal business with the Ravens moving forward.

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