In case you haven't heard, the Bears agreed to a four year, $32 million contract with Matt Forte today, with $18 million of that guaranteed. This is a good deal on so many levels, but I'm just going to note some of them:
1) The headache is gone. The effect of a distraction like this on a team is often as overrated as the idea of team chemistry. In this case, however, you can't help but be relieved that this story has gone away and the Bears, seemingly for the first time since the Superbowl in 2006, enter a season with mostly positive vibes and few major question marks. This is a good thing.
2) The Bears signed Matt Forte for below market value. Look at some of these contracts that runningbacks around the league signed in the last two years:
Frank Gore: 4 years, $26 million ($13.5 million guaranteed)
Marshawn Lynch: 4 years, $31 million ($17 million guaranteed)
LeSean McCoy: 6 years, $45.6 million ($20 million guaranteed)
DeAngelo Williams: 5 years, $43 million ($21 million guaranteed)
Arian Foster: 5 years, $43.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed)q
Ray Rice (signed today after Forte): 5 years, $40 million ($24 million guaranteed)
I'm not even going to bother with the mega deals signed by Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, since that's a whole different monster, but there's no way anyone could say the Bears didn't just get a bargain on Matt Forte. The only guy in the above list who makes less money than Forte is Frank Gore, who is considerably older and was clearly on a gradual decline before he even inked his deal. The most similar contract is Marshawn Lynch, which is a joke considering Lynch isn't even remotely the kind of receiving threat that Forte is, that he averages just 4.0 ypc for his career (Forte is at 4.2, with a career high 4.9 last year), and that he just had his first 1000 yd season since 2008.
The Forte contract especially looks good when you look at the ludicrous deal given to DeAngelo Williams, who played fewer than half of the Panther's snaps on offense last year and yet gets more money than Forte, who accounted for almost half of all of the Bears total yards from scrimmage.
Ray Rice is probably the player most similar to Forte on that list, and he was able to leverage his way to an extra year and $6 million more in guaranteed money.
3) Phil Emery held his ground. Jerry Angelo lowballed Forte with a contract offer similar to the Frank Gore deal. Forte was insulted and as recently as a few weeks ago was talking about a deal almost identical to what Ray Rice just got. Emery held his ground and refused to go past 18 million guaranteed (which is basically what Forte would have gotten playing on the franchise tag the next two years, only now the Bears have the flexibility to shift that cash around to play with the cap). Emery's other offseason moves, such as the Brandon Marshall trade, the signing of Michael Bush, and the drafting of Alshon Jeffery reduced the team's dependency on Forte and thus his leverage. Emery knew this and negotiated accordingly. Competence of this level from the general manager of the Bears is still mindboggling.
4) This deal apparently irritates Steve Rosenbloom, one of Chicago's most irritating and idiotic columnists. Rosenbloom criticized the deal on The Score, saying that Emery caved and overpaid a runningback in what is "a passing league."
This is stupid on so many levels. One, Emery did not cave in any way. Forte got a deal that was both below market value and well below what he was asking for. How the hell did Emery cave?
Two, f*&k the "passing league" comment. The NFL isn't a passing league. It's a scoring league. The fact that teams like the Patriots, Packers, and Lions score a lot of points and get a lot of yards solely by throwing the ball doesn't somehow invalidate the benefit of a good running game. When the Bears had both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte last year, they were 6th in the NFL in scoring at 26 ppg. During the last five games, with Cutler, when Forte got 20 or more carries in nearly every game, the team was averaging 32 PPG. It would be foolish for the Bears to argue they don't need Matt Forte because it is a "passing league." Their offense is best when they have a running game and it could be argued that they'd be better off than Green Bay or Detroit, both of whom paid for their lack of a running game when it gave teams more time on the clock to take advantage of their shitty secondaries.
Simply put, the Bears locked up Forte for less than he deserved, based on the state of runningbacks around the league, and checked off another item on Phil Emery's very impressive first offseason. The Bears head into training camp now with nothing to worry about besides winning football games. They'll do plenty of that in 2012, and Matt Forte should be a big part of it.