It's been one year in the making, but a deal is finally done.
Sean Jensen of the Sun-Times first reported a four-year contract for Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte on Monday just hours before the 3:00 p.m. CST franchise deadline.
The Bears confirmed the deal late Monday afternoon, although terms were not disclosed.
The franchise tender would have paid Forte $7.74 million this season.
Instead, the total value is being reported at $32 million ($8M per season) with $18 million in guarantees.
Of course, Forte is not likely to see all of the $32 million.
The Chicago Bears report to Bourbonnais, IL for Training Camp just one week from today.
The reported $18 million figure is right in between what Forte and his agent Adisa Bakari were reportedly asking for initially ($20M guaranteed) and the Bears’ initial offer ($15M guaranteed).
“We're very pleased that we were able to come to terms on a four-year extension with Matt,” Chicago Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. “We're excited to get him on the field and continue working towards our goal of winning a championship.”
“I'm proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years,” Forté said. “I'd like to thank my family, my agent and the Chicago Bears. I've been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week. I'm glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship.”
This time last year, former Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo made it sound as if he meant to make a contract extension for Forte a top priority.
“I told [Matt’s] agent our intent is to get a deal done,” Angelo said. “That’s a strong word. When I say ‘intent,’ it means we’re motivated to do something.”
After Angelo made that statement, Forte showed up for Training Camp and went to work on the best season of his career.
Prior to the MCL sprain, which would keep him out of four games, Forte led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,487), ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards (997) and ranked fourth among all running backs with 490 yards receiving and third with 52 catches.
He became the first Bears’ player since 2002 to record 10 catches and 100+ yards receiving (117) in a single game at (vs. New Orleans) and also added 10 carries for 49 yards. He was subsequently elected to his first Pro Bowl.
Despite his success during the season, when Angelo spoke out again in November, he seemed far less motivated to reward Forte.
“We made him—in my opinion—a very lucrative offer,” Angelo said. “. . . And it wasn’t able to get done. Our intent is still to have Matt play the bulk of his years in Chicago, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Depending on how the deal Forte signed Monday is structured, the Bears may actually save cap space this season; although prior to the deal they still had $3.82 million remaining in room.
Despite the differing opinions fans may have on one side or the other (the Bears certainly didn’t have to pay Forte, and could have rightly used the franchise tag), the deal is good for the locker room, and serves to show that players who perform will be rewarded.
Still, the running back position boasts the shortest shelf life of any in the NFL, and Forte is already at the tail end of that spectrum.
A few of Matt’s teammates tweeted congratulations after learning of the deal, none more enthusiastically than Lance Briggs: “Yes!!! Congrats to Matt Forte. So happy for my man and his new contract. Well deserved. Play ball!”
Play ball indeed!
***UPDATE: According to the Chicago Tribune, the base value of Forte’s contract is $28.1M, and maxes at $31.5M, with $17.1M—not $18M—guaranteed. The deal is worth $9.8M in 2012; $6.3M in 2013; $6.6M in 2014; $7.8M in 2015. There's another $1M in incentives/escalators.