Bears, Matt Forte beat deadline with 4-year, $32 million contract
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 16, 2012 9:49PM
Bears running back Matt Forte will receive more than $18 million guaranteed. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
7 years, $100M ($36M guar.)
6 years, $55M ($30M guar.)
5 years, $40M ($24M guar.)
5 years, $43M ($21.1M guar.)
5 years, $45M ($20.76M guar.)
5 years, $43.5M ($20.75M guar.)
6 years, $44.8M ($20.5M guar.)
4 years, $31M ($17M guar.)
4 years, $25.9M ($13.5M guar.)
Updated: August 18, 2012 6:32AM
Hours before an NFL deadline, the Bears and Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte finalized a four-year contract worth approximately $32 million.
The sides had until 3 p.m. to work out a long-term deal or else Forte would’ve had to play the 2012 season under a franchise tag worth $7.742 million. Instead, he’ll get more than $18 million guaranteed, according to a source close to the situation, after rebuffing previous offers dating back to September.
Now, it’s a win-win for both sides.
Forte lands a long-term contract that provides more security for his family, and the Bears — specifically general manager Phil Emery — lock up a key player and send a strong message to other players at Halas Hall.
“I’ve been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week,” Forte said in a statement. “I’m glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship.”
Forte was unavailable for further comment.
The Bears confirmed the initial Sun-Times report in the late morning by announcing in the middle of the afternoon that he had passed a physical and signed the four-year deal.
“We’re very pleased that we were able to come to terms on a four-year extension with Matt,” Emery said in a statement. “We’re excited to get him on the field and continue working toward our goal of winning a championship.”
With none of their key players dissatisfied with his 2012 salary, the Bears will report to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University next Tuesday with plenty of momentum. Based on Twitter, Forte’s contract was met with overwhelming approval by his teammates.
“Congrats to Matt Forte,” linebacker Lance Briggs, one of Forte’s most vocal supporters, said on his Twitter account. “So happy for my man and his new contract.
During an interview on Sirius NFL Radio, receiver Earl Bennett said the deal before the deadline was significant for the Bears.
“We know what type of value Matt has within our offense and what he brings,” Bennett said. “It went longer than I expected. Matt’s a great player, and he’s one of those stand-up guys.”
The negotiations were protracted.
Early on, according to ESPN Chicago, the Bears offered between $13 million and $14 million in guaranteed money. And that was believed to be for a six-year deal.
But Forte eventually secured significantly more guaranteed money and provided himself an opportunity to get another deal at 30, when he’s due to be a free agent again.
That came at a price.
In the last few months, the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles proactively rewarded Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy, respectively, with nearly identical five-year contracts that included $20.7 million in guarantees.
After Forte’s deal was announced, the Baltimore Ravens signed Ray Rice to a five-year deal reportedly worth $40 million, including $24 million guaranteed.
For Forte, though, his deal is a relief.
A second-round pick, he outperformed his four-year, $3.7 million rookie contract. Backups Chester Taylor and Marion Barber made more than he did the last two seasons, even though Forte hadn’t missed a game until the last four of 2011 because of a sprained MCL.
The Bears didn’t need salary-cap relief — they had $3.8 million in space heading into Monday — but they secured some after Forte’s deal. More important, Emery wraps up what has been widely hailed as a strong first offseason, most notably by trading for three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
“Phil’s doing a great job,” Bennett said. “He wants to win, and he wants to win now, and everybody feels the sense of urgency for us to go out there and get it done.