INDIANAPOLIS -- Past Chicago Bears’ regimes made a habit of rewarding their own by extending player contracts long before the expiration date.
It remains to be seen if new Bears general manager Ryan Pace subscribes to the same theory, but at least two star players entering the final year of their respective contracts will no doubt push to have offseason dialogue with the organization: running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Forte is coming off another monster year where he led the Bears in receptions (102) and rushing yards (1,038). League wide amongst tailbacks, Forte finished 2015 tied for fifth in rushing attempts (266), 12th in rushing yards, first in catches, second in receiving yards (808) and third in yards from scrimmage (1,846).
The final season of Forte’s four-year extension he signed in July, 2012 calls for the two-time Pro Bowler to collect a $6.650 million base salary, $1.050 million roster bonus, and $100,000 workout bonus -- the deal also contained an escalator clause up to $500,000 that Forte likely triggered.
Forte turned 29 years old in December, but the veteran has showed absolutely no signs of slowing down, despite significant usage over the years. Forte carried the football 1,817 times in seven seasons, to go along with 443 career receptions out of the backfield.
Jeffery, 25, is free to negotiate with the Bears after honoring the terms of the first three years of his original rookie contract. Under his current contract, Jeffery is set to pocket a base salary of $960,157, plus a $50,000 workout bonus, after the 2013 second round pick caught 85 passes for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
Following three NFL seasons, Jeffery is well on his way to being one of the most productive receivers in Bears’ franchise history, hauling in a career 198 passes for 2,921 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Pace explained his philosophy of extending contracts early when he met with reporters this week in Indianapolis.
“I just want to take it on a case by case basis, it’s a slow process,” Pace said. “I know you guys are going to ask questions from a million different angles but again it’s just my job and John’s [Fox] job and our staff’s job to just be thorough and slow with this process. I know there is a time frame but I don’t want to rush any decisions.”