The Bears announced via email Friday night that they have placed the franchise tag on running back Matt Forte.
The news does not ensure Forte will play under the tag in 2012; it simply buys the Bears more time to come to terms on a contract. The deadline to apply the tag was Monday, March 5. Teams can remove the franchise tag at any time.
The Bears and Forte now have until July 15th to work out a new deal for 2012.
Bears’ GM Phil Emery confirmed the team would continue working toward a long-term contract with Matt in the team’s press release. “Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond,” Emery said of the move—key word there being “beyond.”
Using the tag was always going to ultimately give the Bears leverage in contract negotiations. “Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear,” Emery said.
While the tag figure for a running back in 2012 is a respectable $7.7 million, a player of Forte’s caliber may expect to receive two or three times that in guaranteed money via a multi-year deal. Long-term contracts also give a team far greater incentive to hang onto a player and avoid what’s called “dead-money.”
My guess is the two sides reach an agreement before the July 15th deadline.