The Chicago Bears signing running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million contract ($7 million guaranteed) seemed like good news for everyone. Bush got rewarded for proving to be a reliable short-yardage option with the Oakland Raiders. The Bears finally added a stable, legitimate backup that they’ve desperately needed. On its face this was a win-win for all parties.
All parties except for current starting running back Matt Forte, that is.
Shortly after it was announced that Bush had been inked to a deal, Forte took to Twitter to express his heartbreak over the signing.
There's only so many times a man that has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last....— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 22, 2012
Forte is currently involved in something of a contract dispute with the Bears. Because he’s the squad’s most potent and reliable offensive weapon, he (understandably) was hoping to get a new contract with a lot more money. Instead of giving him a new contract and more money, Chicago (understandably) opted to franchise him – meaning he’ll be due about $7.7 million next season barring a deal of some sort being reached to change that.
While Bears management undoubtedly understands how valuable Forte is to their offense, giving running backs big money tends to backfire more often than not. And even though everyone wants to reward a guy they’ve run into the ground for years in theory, committing a chunk of salary cap in actuality is a lot tougher.
The addition of Bush will a.) slightly lessen Forte’s importance (not by a lot, but slightly) and b.) give Bears additional leverage over him in negotiations. So based on all that, you can’t really blame him for being sad/mad/annoyed at this move. Much in the same way as you can’t blame the Bears for making it in the first place.
One really weird thing in all this is that you can’t say that Chicago has been cheap over the last few years. The franchise has seemingly paid people what it needed to. With that in mind, it’s tough to figure out whether this is a situation where the Bears are low-balling Forte like he seems to feel like they are, or if this is a situation where Forte is demanding too much money.
For his part, Bush has actually been really cool about both his role on the team and Forte’s reaction to his signing. Here is what he said in a conference call on Thursday (via The Chicago Tribune):
“I’m not stuck on how many carries I get,” Bush said. “I just want to be out there and help the team.”
All in all, regardless of whose side of the Forte vs. Bears Management War you’re on, there is no denying that Chicago made a smart move with Bush. The rest of this mess will just have to work itself out.