The Bears announced Friday night that they have placed the franchise tag on RB Matt Forté.
Signing the tender to play under the tag in 2012 would guarantee Forté a salary of about $7.7 million next season, but it appears he'll hold off while the Bears and his agent, Adisa Bakari, continue to discuss a long-term deal before the July 16 deadline for teams to sign a tagged player to a multi-year contract. He can sign the tender as early as March 13, when the new league year begins.
"Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear," Bears GM Phil Emery said. "We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond."
Forté, 26, made his first Pro Bowl after rushing for 997 yards and three touchdowns on 203 carries last season. He also led the team in receptions with 52 for 490 yards and one TD.
He missed the final four games of the regular season after suffering a knee injury in a Week 13 loss to the Chiefs.
"Matt's a phenomenal running back," Bakari said in a text message. "Whether as a ball carrier or receiver, there are few players who share his skill set."
The way we see it
This news is no surprise — Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said after the season that the Bears had no intention of letting Forté hit the open market. Forté was unhappy with the contract offer former GM Jerry Angelo made to him in training camp last season, and the Bears still have not made him an offer to his liking, but there's plenty of time for the two sides to work out a long-term deal before mid-July.