UPDATE: Forte has agreed to a four-year extension.
The year-long contract stalemate between Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears will mercifully reach an abrupt conclusion on Monday at 3:00 p.m. If the team and the running back can't agree on the long-term extension Forte seeks, he'll be playing on the franchise tag, set to pay him $7.74 million for one season. The two sides have been at odds since this time last year over the terms of a new deal, and while recent reports suggest progress, the entirity of the despute has been characterized by two stubborn sides digging their heels in the sand, refusing to find common ground.
The Bears offered Forte $15 million guaranteed and $6 million per season; the running back wants $20 million guaranteed, a deal similar to the one LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles just signed. The Bears know they have all the leverage in the situation, and they can use the franchise tag on Forte again next season. The team is said to have concerns over the durability of his knees. As y'all know, NFL running backs rarely, if ever, remain productive into their late 20s and early 30s. Forte, 26, is coming off a breakout season that saw him as one of the league leaders in yards from scrimmage until his breakout season was cut short by a knee injury December 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Bears' original offer is still on the table, one would think it'll be hard for Forte to bypass it. There's certainly no guarantee Forte will be productive enough to warrant getting tagged again next season. If he suffers another injury, there's a very good chance he won't be able to make up the $7.3 million he's refusing to take. Of course, the tag goes up incrementally every season, so another stellar year and Forte could be set to make a bit more coin. He's betting on himself, and there's nothing wrong with that.
For Bears fans, the most important thing is the resolution. This situation has dominated headlines surrounding the team for far too long; with training camp rapidly approaching, it's time to get down to the business of being one of the best teams in the NFC.
We will know more shortly, but at the moment it certainly seems like Forte will be playing under the tag. For a player who's never earned more than $600,000 per season, the $7 million paycheck won't be so bad, even if it isn't ideal.