Bears GM Jerry Angelo said about a week before the season opener that he was shutting down negotiations with RB Matt Forté's camp on a new deal and would go back to the negotiating table after the season.
The story isn't dying, though, and Forté's camp isn't giving up hope on coming to an agreement during the season.
The debate in Chicago is ongoing — should the Bears give Forté the extension he's seeking or let the season play out and resume talks before Forté becomes an unrestricted free agent in March?
Some have suggested that the Bears will be kicking themselves for not getting a deal done sooner. Forté could keep producing at a high level and make himself more and more attractive to other teams.
He played like someone determined to put himself in the best possible bargaining situation in Week One. He was the team's top rusher and receiver with 16 carries for 68 yards and five catches for 90 receiving yards, including a 56-yard score off a screen pass in the Bears' 30-12 win over the Falcons.
I wouldn't start sweating if I was the Bears, though.
Forté's a very good all-around back and he's probably going to be paid like one eventually, but a few more really good games by the fourth-year back should not have Angelo hurrying to lock him up long-term, especially if it means paying him the kind of money that the Panthers guaranteed to DeAngelo Williams ($21 million). Forté might be looking for a contract in the range of Williams' deal, and his production could provide him with a compelling case to be paid at the same level.
Something closer to the deal recently signed by Frank Gore ($13.5 million guaranteed) appears to be what the Bears have in mind.
Maybe the two sides will meet somewhere in the middle. I won't be too surprised if they don't and this lingers into the offseason.
Forté has been durable, he's healthy now and the hope is that he stays healthy, but, as he and the Bears know very well, that can change quickly. Running backs pay a particularly tough price absorbing hit after hit each week. Their careers are brief. Their prime years are even shorter.
Keeping Forté a Bear makes sense, but only at a certain price. Paying, or overpaying, to sign him to an extension now would be much more of a risk on the Bears' part than waiting until the offseason to make a deal.
Letting Forté get away would be a blow to a team that has surrounded QB Jay Cutler with a supporting cast that is suspect even with Forté. But the Bears shouldn't try to avoid a personnel problem by creating a financial one.
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