Matt Forte, Bears have until 3 p.m. Monday to work out long-term contract
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2012 9:06PM
Bears running back Matt Forte is grabbed by Vikings corner back Cedric Griffin as he runs for a long gain in the first quarter of the Chicago Bears vs. the Minnesota Vikings NFL game Sunday night October 16, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: August 17, 2012 7:12AM
If the Bears are going to work out a long-term deal with Matt Forte, they’ll do it in dramatic fashion.
The NFL deadline for a franchise player to sign a long-term deal is 3 p.m. Monday.
On Friday, Forte told ESPN he remained “optimistic” that he’d get a long-term contract.
“I’m a very optimistic guy,” Forte said. “So going into this weekend, I’m very optimistic that it’ll get done and say my prayers and everything.”
Asked how challenging his contract status has been, Forte said, “It gets irritating because it’s all I’ve been hearing about.
“Just look forward and be optimistic about getting this deal done. Hopefully, both sides can come to a middle ground.”
If the sides can’t come to terms on Monday, then Forte would have to play the 2012 season under a franchise tag worth $7.742 million.
While a healthy salary, that would be tough for Forte, given his production during his four-year, $3.7 million rookie contract. A second-round pick out of Tulane, Forte didn’t miss a start in his first three NFL seasons and established himself as one of the league’s best all-around backs.
Last season, Forte led the league in total yards from scrimmage until he suffered a sprained MCL that sidelined him for the last four games. He was named to the Pro Bowl.
Determining the salary for a running back has been difficult to figure.
Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are the highest-paid running backs with contracts that guaranteed $36 million and $30 million, respectively.
The tricky part has been the players after that.
DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers received a five-year, $43 million contract that included $21 million in guarantees, despite coming off a major knee injury.
In March, the Houston Texans proactively rewarded Arian Foster with a deal worth just $250,000 less than Williams, and the Philadelphia Eagles signed LeSean McCoy to a similar deal.
In addition, the Seattle Sea-hawks signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year, $31 million contract that included $18 million in guarantees.