Forte's agent, Bears at 'philosophical crossroads'

Posted Sept. 26, 2011 @ 6:07 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Running lanes have been scarce for RB Matt Forté, who was held to two yards on nine carries Sunday as the Bears' offensive line struggled to clear holes against the Packers.

Forté ranks 30th in rushing yards (119) and is averaging only 39.7 per game. He continues to be one of the league's more productive pass catchers, however. Forté ranks second in the league in receptions (22) and he's sixth in the league in receiving yards (287).

He's fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage (406).

Forté has accounted for 44 percent of the Bears' yardage in the first three games, and he wants a substantial raise from the Bears. He's in the final year of his rookie deal, which includes a base salary of $600,000, and he thought he would have a new contract by now.

As for where things stand between Bears GM Jerry Angelo and Forté's agent, Adisa Bakari, on talks of a new deal for Forté, PFW contacted both men at the center of the situation for a feature in the latest print edition of PFW.

"We are at a philosophical crossroads," Bakari told PFW prior to Chicago's Week Three game. "We view Matt's value differently and because of that different perspective of what Matt's value is to the Bears, and vis-à-vis other running backs, we have an inability currently to find a common ground. So unless there's a philosophical shift by one of the parties, it's not likely that we'll find one.

"The longer we wait, the more challenging it becomes to get a deal done long term."

Bakari and Angelo negotiated in August but were unable to come to an agreement, and Angelo said before the season that he would suspend talks to avoid having negotiations become a distraction.

It sounds like the door is open for an agreement to come together, though.

"Both parties worked extremely hard prior to the start of the season to get a deal done," Angelo said in a statement to PFW. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to accomplish that. So now we want to focus on the season, and we don't want to have any type of distraction taking away from that.

"We're not closing the door, but the focus for now is on the season. We want to have Matt play his entire career as a Bear. That was our intent when we started contract negotiations."

Since he entered the league in 2008, only Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew have more yards from scrimmage than Forté's 5,137. No back has more receiving yards than Forté (1,782) during that span.

Peterson and Johnson signed new deals before the season that contained $36 million (Peterson) and $30 million (Johnson) guaranteed. Jones-Drew is in the third year of a five-year contract he signed in April 2009, which included $17.5 million guaranteed.

"It's pretty simple to me," Forté said in response to a question from PFW last week. "If you look at production, usually guys get paid off of their production. You look at their production and what level that's on, and you look at some guys who produce similarly and see what they get paid. It's not that hard.

"Obviously, somebody doesn't believe I'm an elite running back."

Forté may not get the opportunity to gauge his value on the open market if no long-term agreement is reached with the Bears before the offseason. Teams have used the franchise tag to keep highly valued players with expiring contracts from hitting the open market, and employing that strategy with Forté will be an option for the Bears.

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