Suffice it to say, no player on the Bears has garnered as much attention this year as Matt Forte. Most of this has to do with the fact that he is currently the single best runningback in football. I'm reminded of the controversy that ensued this summer when one of the ESPN bloggers compared Forte to Peterson and a million Vikings fans got pissed. Forte now has 1091 yards from scrimmage in seven games this year (155.8 YPG), while Peterson has 923 in eight games (115.4).
Unfortunately, almost all of the discussion about Forte's great performance on the field includes the scuttlebutt over his contract dispute. I've made no secret of my desire to see the Bears lock up Forte, but I find myself disagreeing lately with much of the sentiment that I'm hearing from the fanbase (imagine that).
There are basically two camps at this point on Forte: the "pay the man" camp that appears to believe that Forte deserves a mega-contract most likely stemming from their fear that he'll somehow leave the Bears otherwise, and the people who view Forte for what he is in the cold, harsh reality of the business of football: a man who plays the most injury-prone and often dispensable position on the field, who should simply be franchise-tagged until his production declines as it inevitably will.
I like Matt Forte. I was frequently angry in 2009 when some people refused to see that he was dealing with an injury and a terrible offensive line and called him a "one-year wonder" and a bust. He's an incredibly talented player who opens up the entire offense. After years of watching guys like Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis, James Allen, Anthony Thomas, and Cedric Benson, it's hard not to appreciate what Forte brings to the table. The only comparable runningback the Bears have had in the last decade and a half was Thomas Jones, and Forte's a much better player even than him. For that reason, I sympathize with the guy and I'd like to see his future as a Bear secured.
That said, I'm a fan of the Chicago Bears. However awesome Matt Forte is right now, you, me, and everyone else will hate him the second this franchise gives him a huge contract and he goes belly-up Chris Johnson style. Not that will necessarily happen, but the awesome thing about the fact that fans have no accountability is the fact that the ones who are yelling at Jerry Angelo to get this deal done right now are the ones who will add a bloated contract for an ineffective player to his list of wrongs if Forte's production declines. I don't want to think a sudden drop off for Forte could happen, but guys like Shaun Alexander, Rudi Johnson, and Larry Johnson all went from dynamic players to busts in a single season. Angelo is right to be cautious here. The best thing for the Chicago Bears is to keep Forte in the fold as cheaply as possible for as long as he's an effective player. If that means the whole "Pay Matt Forte" crowd has to be happy with the franchise tag, so be it. It's better than dealing with a repeat of the Nathan Vasher and Tommie Harris contracts.
The one thing I've come to terms with on this whole deal is that my momentary fear that the Bears actually didn't appreciate Forte or that there's any possibility he'll walk after this season is gone. He's not going anywhere, franchise tag or no, and the team owns all the leverage. So relax. Enjoy Matt Forte. He's going to get paid, and, cruel as the world may be, it doesn't matter to all of us at home whether he's got guaranteed money or not.
Editor's Note: SK Jensen basically just said the same damn thing.