The Chicago Bears announced today the acquisition of running back Michael Bush. The club signed him to a four-year deal worth $14 million, with $7 million guaranteed.
Bush was arguably the top running back on the open market. Chicago has a Pro Bowl ball carrier in Matt Forte, and tendered backup Kahlil Bell last week, yet decided to go forward with the Bush signing.
Forte, who has been trying to land a long-term deal since last offseason, is not pleased.
Per his Twitter account:
“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....”
RB Matt Forte
Forte was hit with the franchise tag this offseason. He’ll make $7.7 million next year but is not guaranteed anything beyond that point. His agent, Adisa Bakari, is still negotiating with the club on a long-term deal but there hasn’t been much progress.
It now appears even less likely the two sides will come to an agreement on an extension any time soon.
Forte, who made $600,000 last season in the final year of his rookie contract, chose not to hold out last offseason. Instead, he showed up to camp on time and in arguably the best shape of his life. He went out on the field and performed at an extremely high level, leading the league in yards from scrimmage for most of the campaign and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Yet a deal still seems very far off. Under former GM Jerry Angelo, the club reportedly was only willing to offer him $14 million guaranteed, which is a far cry from some of the guaranteed money handed out to lesser running backs the past two seasons.
Forte refused the deal and the Bears apparently aren’t willing to budge.
This is the third year in a row that the club has paid substantial money for a player to backup Forte. In 2010, the team spent $7 million on Chester Taylor and his 2.4 yards per carry. Last year it was Barber, who made more than four times as much as Forte in 2011. And now it’s Bush.
Combining the salaries of Forte’s last three backups, the Bears have spent roughly $20.3 million, yet they refuse to pay their best player.
From the organization’s standpoint, it’s easy to see what they are doing. They are leveraging their argument against Forte and providing themselves insurance in case Forte holds out.
From Forte’s standpoint, it’s easy to see why he’s absolutely furious. It’s hard to find a similar example of a team blatantly disrespecting its best player for three years in a row.
Bakari issued the following statement today after Bush was signed:
"To sign yet another running back, prior to completing a contract with Matt suggests disregard for Matt and his contribution to the Bears."
There is no doubt in my mind that Forte will hold out this year. How long it will last or what its outcome will be remains to be seen.
If the Bears plan on trading him, Forte will have to sign his franchise tender first. I don’t see that happening either.
Buckle up folks, this is about to get messy.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.