The contract dispute between the Chicago Bears and star running back Matt Forte has raged for a year now, with little to no progress being made by either side. The stances of both parties has never changed: the Bears elected to stick the franchise tag on Forte (which the team can also do next season) after the running back rebuffed their proposed contract extension, which would have guaranteed Forte around $13-14 million. Forte wants closer to $20 million guaranteed.
The Bears have the cap space to give Forte the contract he desires, but the team always has all the leverage in these situations. Forte has yet to sign the franchise tag, but he doesn't have much of a choice: for a player who has never earned more than $600,000 for a season his entire career, the $7 million-plus the tag promises him is too much money to pass up.
A recent report in the Chicago Tribune hints at why the Bears are hesitant to offer Forte the money he seeks: they have concerns about the durability of his knees.
David Haugh has a quick history of Forte's health issues:
Forte has history with both knees. He tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in November 2006 at Tulane and that injury, combined with 833 carries in college primarily on artificial surfaces, caused a handful of teams to note worries over the length of his NFL career. He suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the same knee in 2009, his second year, and had postseason arthroscopic surgery.
In the midst of his best season last year, Forte missed the Bears' final four games after suffering an MCL sprain in his right knee. He then played in the Pro Bowl.
While the Bears' concerns appear legitimate and the team is well within its right to play hardball with the running back, count us among the group who wishes the organization wouldn't go to such great lengths to piss off one of its bets players. For a team with very real Super Bowl aspirations this season, giving the middle finger to a star player certainly can't help team morale.
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