By Chris Burke
July 16, 2012

Matt Forte's desire for a long-term deal has been a long-simmering story in Chicago. (Getty Images)

Here's what Matt Forte had to say about his contract negotiation with the Bears back in June:

"I just want to be given a contract where I rank among some of the top running backs. Not the top paid or highest paid or anything like that. I just want to be recognized as one of the best."

So here's where Forte wound up with his reported four-year, $32 million contract: About right in line with the recent signings of Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million), LeSean McCoy (six for $45.6) and Marshawn Lynch (four for $31), but shy of Chris Johnson's 2011 deal (six years, $55.26 million) and way off Adrian Peterson's seven-year, $96 million deal.

Of course, contracts are only as good as the guaranteed money in them. Foster and McCoy received about $21 million there, while Lynch earned $17 million. Forte's numbers: Reportedly around $18 million.

And that sounds about right.

Forte finished just three yards shy of 1,000 on the ground last season, despite missing four games because of a knee injury. He added 52 catches for 490 yards to give him 1,487 total yards in 2011, his fourth consecutive season topping the 1,400-yard plateau in that category.

Is Forte the best running back in the league? Given that he's never finished higher than seventh in the chase for the rushing title -- and that his most productive year, statistically, came in his 2008 rookie season, that would be a hard case to make. But is he a top-10 and arguably top-five back? You bet.

Even more important than his place on the league's RB totem pole is Forte's role in the Bears' offense. While Kahlil Bell and Marion Barber did a solid job in Forte's stead last season (at least, when Barber wasn't coughing up egregious fumbles), Chicago has built its attack around Jay Cutler and Forte over the past few seasons.

The Bears also made a concerted effort to stockpile talent around that duo this offseason, trading for WR Brandon Marshall and signing RB Michael Bush to take some of the load off Forte.

Though Chicago's offensive line remains a work in progress, the pieces are in place at the skill positions for this offense to keep up with Green Bay, Detroit and other teams in the NFC for years to come. Getting Forte locked up Monday, just hours before the franchise-tag deadline, ensures too that the Bears can head into training camp without a massive distraction hanging over their heads -- a key intangible that should not be overlooked.

The Bears will also have, we can only assume, a happy and satisfied Forte, who finally received the long-term contract he's been asking for since before the 2011 season.

You May Like