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Updated Friday, March 2 at 9:48 ET
This is the seventh in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: There is little doubt about where Forté will be playing in 2012 — Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips has said the team has no intent of letting him hit the open market. Phillips also repeatedly has said that the Bears would like to keep Forté long-term. But because significant progress hadn't been made on a long-term deal, the Bears franchised the fifth-year back on March 2. Forté was unhappy with the contract offer that former Bears GM Jerry Angelo made to him in training camp last year, and he has indicated that he can accept being tagged if the team uses it as a means of allowing the two sides to continue negotiations on a long-term deal. Forté's preference appears to be staying in Chicago. Now that the franchise-tag card has been played, the two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. If there is no new agreement by that time, Forté will have to play in 2012 under the tag, which is expected to be worth about $7.7 million for running backs — provided he signs the franchise tender instead of staging a holdout.
Notes: Forté was having the best season of his career before suffering an MCL sprain in his right knee early in the Bears' Week 13 loss to the Chiefs. He missed the final four games of the season, but still led the Bears in rushing (997 yards on 203 carries) and receptions (52). His average of 4.9 yards per carry was a career high. He put the Bears' offense on his back for much of the season and led the league in yards from scrimmage at the time of his injury, which helped earn him his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He played in the all-star gamel and has recovered from the knee injury. In 2010, Forté became the second back in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and gain more than 500 receiving yards in one season. He has been durable throughout his career — he had played in 62 consecutive games, including the postseason, prior to the knee injury in '11.
Positives: A well-built workhorse, Forté has become one of the league's top all-around backs. He runs with authority between the tackles and will cut to make defenders miss. Has good vision. Decisive. Will break through arm tackles and fight to pick up yards after contact. Has good hands and the agility to make plays as a receiver. A willing, unselfish blocker. Hardworking and disciplined with great instincts.
Negatives: He doesn't show a second gear and lacks breakaway speed. Not very elusive. Is a taller back and runs high at times. Has to work to keep a low center of gravity. Shows some tightness in his hips. Puts the ball on the ground a couple times each season.
Risk factor: Considering the beating that running backs sustain each season, it's not a surprise that teams are cautious about making a long-term commitment to players at the position. Forté just turned 26 years old in December, though. He has avoided serious injuries and seems to keep getting better every year. There is not a great deal of risk attached to using the franchise tag. The risk involved with making a long-term commitment to him is obvious. Injuries and wear and tear eventually will take their toll, but Forté is in his prime and should have at least a few more years of quality football ahead of him.