Are the Chicago Bears Abusing Matt Forte?

| by Alex Groberman

In today’s NFL, there is no more difficult decision to make (unless you’re Denver Broncos management) than to figure out whether you want to pay your star running back. The intricacies of whole thing go so deep that, inevitably, regardless of your decision, one side will walk away feeling as though they’ve been had.

The Chicago Bears find themselves in a very precarious situation right now. They currently have one of the best running backs in the league on their roster in Matt Forte. Said running back is shining despite an awful offensive line and sporadic quarterback who may or may not catch more flak than he deserves.

However, because Forte is so good and because he is doing such damage, the fact that he’s so clearly underpaid by the Bears is becoming a serious issue. The 26-year-old who is due to turn 27 in a month understands that his opportunity to cash in on a big post-rookie contract deal will never be better than now.

At the same time, the franchise is no doubt eying some of the deals handed out by other franchises earlier in the year (read: Tennessee Titans) and fearing that the same thing might happen to them if they get too loosey goosey with the purse strings. Plus, they have the ability to slap a franchise tag on Forte after this year – further making extending him via a big deal completely unnecessary at this point in time.

During a recent interview, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Forte expressed some displeasure with the way that the organization has been handling things.

"The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field," Forte said Tuesday, per the Chicago Sun-Times. "Everyone acknowledges that. So to continue to give me the touches I’ve had since my rookie year but not award me a long-term contract sends the message that you’re OK grinding me into a pulp.

"If they think by just slapping the franchise tag on me that’s going to silence anything, they’re sadly mistaken," he said. "That’s not going to cure everything. It’s not a solution, I would say."

Forte’s point is valid, of course. For the season he’s averaging about 96 yards per game rushing and nearly 60 yards receiving. He makes up more than 40 percent of what the Bears’ offensive yardage output. And he’s doing it all at a severe discount.

At the same time, Chicago’s position can’t exactly be deemed unreasonable. If they extend Forte’s contract, and then his production falls off a la Chris Johnson – can the Bears demand their money back? Of course not.

There is a ridiculous notion that floats around amongst players that the franchises have endless streams of money, and that when they inevitably underpay some players, they’re being greedy. The truth is, though, teams would gladly pay players their full worth so long as players agreed that this would work both ways. That when their production teeters off, the pay could decrease accordingly.

Obviously that won’t happen. But the point remains the same. Blaming the Bears for abusing Forte or anything of the sort is shortsighted, and only looking at things from the perspective of players.