Bears running back Matt Forte might very well be the most underpaid player in professional football. Forte's averaging 96 rushing yards a game behind a Swiss (cheese) built offensive line, he's averaging 59.9 receiving yards a game, he leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,091 and he accounts for over 40 percent of Chicago's offensive yardage produced.
Yet the Bears refuse to pay him. Or even talk about paying him. And may just end up using their franchise tag on him. All of which is starting to grind Forte's gears.
"The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field," Forte said Tuesday, per the Chicago Sun-Times. "Everyone acknowledges that. So to continue to give me the touches I’ve had since my rookie year but not award me a long-term contract sends the message that you’re OK grinding me into a pulp."
Look, the Bears and Forte are in a weird situation. He's blowing up this season and he probably deserves to get paid. And the Bears desperately need him on their roster.
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But if you're Chicago, and you're watching what happened with Chris Johnson and the Titans this season, how can you reasonably carve out a chunk of your payroll to give Forte a big-time deal when you don't have to? Especially since the franchise tag will be available after this season, even if it's something that won't make Forte too happy.
"If they think by just slapping the franchise tag on me that’s going to silence anything, they’re sadly mistaken," he said. "That’s not going to cure everything. It’s not a solution, I would say."
Reading between the lines, it's not implausible to think Forte might consider holding out if the Bears apply the franchise tag to him. It's reasonable for him to be upset, because he'll turn 27 in December and 28 the December after that, which means he wouldn't see his first non-rookie guaranteed contract until he was 29, should the Bears only franchise him once.
It's a legitimate quandary and although Forte's incredibly valuable to Chicago -- and the primary reason they've had any offensive success whatsoever -- his value takes a serious hit if the running back's contract takes up a substantially bigger portion of Chicago's payroll.
And if he's ground to a pulp, well, he doesn't do them much good at all.
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