Friday, July 29, 2011
Matt Forte in camp with hope of deal
By Jeff Dickerson and Michael Wright
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Matt Forte arrived at the Chicago Bears camp on Friday with a clear message from Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
"He told me a deal will get done," Forte said Friday evening. "He said I'm a priority of his. What that means, hopefully that means soon. I mean, there's no telling with them. But to me priority means soon."
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Forte has made no secret about his desire to sign a long-term extension with the Bears. Earlier in the week, when talks appeared to be progressing at a slow rate, the running back contemplated a training camp holdout. But the running back reported to Bears camp Friday morning with the understanding a new contract was in the works.
"It [holding out] was a consideration," Forte said. "I had to weigh my options and stuff. I thought about it. But like I said before, it never benefits a player or a team for somebody to hold out. I kind of got my mind put to ease by Jerry, he had been in talks with my agent since the end of the lockout and even before that. He kind of said a deal would get done. He assured us repeatedly a deal will get done. Where I'm from and how I was raised, when somebody gives you their word, that goes a long way."
Since entering the NFL in 2008 as a second-round pick out of Tulane, Forte ranks fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (4,731), behind Chris Johnson, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and St. Louis' Steven Jackson.
Add in Forte's 294 yards from the 2010 postseason, and Forte ranks fourth among all active running backs over the past three years in yards from scrimmage (5,025) behind Peterson (5,643), Johnson (5,606) and Baltimore's Ray Rice (5,038).
Yet Forte is scheduled to earn $550,000 in base salary in the final year of his rookie contract, while his primary backup, Chester Taylor, pocketed $7 million in 2010 in the first year of a $12.5 million contract, and is set earn $1.25 million in 2011.
Forte ranks seventh in franchise history in career rushing yards (3,236), and last season became the first player in Bears history to gain at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three seasons.
So, realistically, the statistics indicate Forte has outperformed his rookie contract. Of the 2008 draft class of running backs, only Johnson and Rice have more yards from scrimmage than Forte, and only Johnson has scored more touchdowns (38 to Forte's 25). Yet as valuable as he's proven to be, Forte simply isn't an immediate priority for a team looking to bolster a weak offensive line and sign its own free agents and draft picks, in addition to filling various holes in the roster.
Jeff Dickerson and Michael Wright cover the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.