I have to say it . . .
All the "Pay Forte" and "Pay Da Man" expressions on twitter are driving me NUTS! If I have to read one more thing on how the Bears should overpay Matt Forte (a RESTRICTED free agent, mind you), I might rip out all of my hair and call it a career writing sports. Okay . . . not really.
But seriously, people . . . STOP IT. Just take a second to understand the business side of this contract situation. The Chicago Bears have to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears, not offer Matt Forte an exorbitant contract with gobs of guaranteed cash for no other reason than to massage the running back’s ego and make him feel wanted.
For starters, running backs are not as valuable as they once were. It's a passing League, like it or not, and running backs—as far as production goes—are a dime a dozen. Granted, Forte is not just an average Joe. He is probably one of the best backs in the game. Admitted.
But he, as well as the "Pay Forte" crowd, needs to understand that you don't hand out elite-level contracts to A) a player in a position with such a short shelve life (approx. 3 years for running backs), and B) a restricted free agent who you can hang onto through other means.
I’m not saying that Forte is about to fall apart, but statistics suggest that he should start slowing down in the next few years. Maybe this year for all we know. He did lose his first significant chuck of season due to injury last year . . .
But let’s take a look at another contract situation coming up in the next two years: Jay Cutler, for example, is a free agent after 2013, and he should be due another extension at some point this season or in the next off-season. He is by far the most important player on the team and the real face of the franchise. (If you don’t agree with that, just see the 2011 season before Cutler’s injury . . . and then after it. I rest my case.)
If the Bears go out and throw huge money at Forte now, it’s going to affect future cap space and the team’s ability to get things done with the most important pieces of the puzzle. Who would you rather risk losing: Forte or Cutler? That's not even a legit question at this point. (Unless of course you’re one of the shmucks who liked Hanie over Jay . . . you idiots will never live that down so long as I’m around.)
And Jay’s not the only one up in 2014. Heck, Brian Urlacher is up after this season. This following list should give you an idea why it’s important for Phil Emery to make careful decisions and not frivolously dole out stacks of guaranteed money (what Forte wants)—which, by the way, is spread out over the life of a contract and would grossly affect future salary caps. Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Devin Hester, and Charles Tillman are all out of contract after the 2013 season, same as Cutler.
Probably don’t want to handcuff yourself now.
Forte has zero leverage in negotiating talks. His biggest mistake was not holding out during training camp last year. Had he held out, he might have been able to get a long-term contract done. But instead, he played the nice guy role and attended camp. But he’s not finishing last. Instead, he’s being paid among the top players at his position under the franchise tag. Disrespect? I think not.
He’s coming off a knee injury that ended his 2011 season, and he now has a formidable backup who could start on a lot of teams. He wants more money than the running back market would bear even if he was an UNRESTRICTED free agent (if you don’t believe that, Michael Bush is a great case in point: starting caliber player, signed as a backup).
So go ahead, Matt, hold out now. Go ahead and get fined $30K per day once the season starts. We have Michael Bush to hold down the forte (sorry, I mean fort!), and we’ll be padding the coffers with you off the books in the meantime.
Keep pouting and complaining on twitter, too! That’s been working out really well (read sarcasm)! If you REALLY want to miss out on $7.7 million this year, go ahead. You had your chance to make a statement in contract talks, but you missed it. Personally . . . I like that Matt showed up at camp last year, but from the business side of it, that was a huge mistake.
Now it’s time to shut up and play football.
Oh, and all of you people kicking and screaming about paying Forte need to shut down your twitter accounts forever. No more “Pay Forte” and no more calling the McCaskey family cheap when the numbers and the recent history show sound financial decisions, coupled with rewarding production at the right time. Disagree? I’m on twitter.