Take a look at the 2010 production of the three running backs listed below. If I told you that those were the stats of Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Matt Forte, would you be able to tell me with any certainty which running backs were A, B, and C?
- Running Back A – 1,616 yards from scrimmage, 9 TDs
- Running Back B – 1,639 yards from scrimmage, 13 TDs
- Running Back C – 1,609 yards from scrimmage, 12 TDs
Forte was A, Peterson was B, and Johnson was C.
On the eve of the 2011 season starting, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson both worked new deals with their teams. The Vikings did so willingly giving Peterson a seven year deal worth $100 million with $36 million guaranteed. Johnson had to hold out to get his money, but he eventually received a four year $53.5 million extension with $30 million guaranteed.
After eight games All-Day AP is having a monster season with 923-yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs. Johnson however has taken his money and gone on a virtual vacation. After seven games CJ53,000K has 462-yards from scrimmage and 5 TDs. Projecting these seasons out, Peterson is on pace for 1,846-yards from scrimmage and 20 TD’s. Johnson on the other hand is on pace for 1,056-yards from scrimmage and 10 TD’s.
Matt Forte’s production so far this season is nothing short of remarkable. After seven games while he’s only found the end zone three times (you think teams focus on him a bit when the Bears get in the Redzone?) he has 1,091-yards from scrimmage which makes up more than 40% of the team’s offensive production. Forte’s 155.86-yards from scrimmage per game are the best in the league. Peterson is averaging 115.4 and Johnson is averaging (an embarrassing for everyone else but him) 66-yards per game.
Despite the fact that Chester Taylor, Forte’s backup signed a $12.5 million deal, with $7 million guaranteed in the first year of his deal last season and the Chicago Bears refused to rework Forte’s deal. Forte who is currently still playing on the last year of his first NFL contract, a four-year deal worth $3,781,000, one that only pays him $550,000 this year, has taken the high road thus far. It’s no certainty however that Forte’s gentleman behavior is going to get him paid. The Bears simply seem willing to slap the franchise tag on him going year by year, gambling on the fact that he won’t be able to produce at this level for much longer and limiting their exposure.
Chicago can use the franchise tag on Forte up to three times if they want, basically giving Forte a one year contract each time and playing things one season at a time. Should Forte get hurt or break down at any point, the Bears will limit their monetary exposure to one year at a time. In essence, if Forte continues to perform, he can get three separate well paid contracts of one year each, with no guarantees. At any point in time however, if his production declines for any reason the Bears can simply cut ties with him.
It appears that Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo read NFL Scout Jayson Braddock’s September 21st post about why Chris Johnson should not have gotten paid and what happens to most elite NFL backs after their first few years of production. Braddock uses Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis as prime examples, and the facts are hard to dispute. The reality is that Forte probably does not have more than three First Team All-Pro seasons left in his body, the Bears know it (especially how often they use him) and have no reason to give him a guaranteed long term contract so long as Forte is being Mr. nice guy.
On Tuesday Forte told the Chicago Sun-Times, “The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field, 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.”
We’ve all heard the expression “nice guys finish last” and this has never been truer than in the case of Matt Forte. If Forte wants to do what’s right for him and his family, he needs to hold out now, in mid season, and gain some leverage. What’s his risk in doing so? Without Matt Forte the Bears offense is nothing. The club only owes him just $275,000 for the rest of this year and they can’t dock him any more than he’s owed.
A running back’s lifespan in the NFL is short, and he has a limited time to earn his money. While Bears fans might be upset that he didn’t show up for work, there isn’t a current or retired NFL player who would blame Forte for going on strike. And if fans were honest with themselves, putting themselves in Forte’s position, they would understand as well.
The Bears have a very good reason for doing everything they can to avoid signing Forte to a mega deal and they are doing a great job of managing risk. How do you think the Tennessee Titans feel now after giving Chris Johnson the money now that he’s effectively retired, but still showing up for games and collecting his money?
It’s time for Forte to stop being such a nice guy and for him to start looking out for himself and his family. He needs to use the only leverage he has and that’s to threaten to take away 40% of the Bears offense. NOW.
The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at TheXLog.com. You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.