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By Ryan Wilson
Other than the Browns' decision to franchise 37-year-old kicker Phil Dawson, there weren't any real surprises Friday. That didn't change when the Bears tagged running back Matt Forte, who's now in line to make $7.7 million in 2012 under the designation.
The Bears' former second-round pick missed the final month of the season with a knee injury, but the organization had no plans to let him hit free agency. In February, team president Ted Phillips said, "We'd like to (work out a long-term deal). But as (new GM) Phil (Emery) pointed out we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."
And that's exactly what happened.
Forte's response to Phillips' comments above? "It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag). If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."
So what happens now? Players can sign their tenders at any point between March 13 and July 16, the deadline for reaching a multi-year extension.
"Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear," general manager 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."
Despite the late-season injury, Forte became the first Bears running back to be named to a Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson in 1991. In four seasons, Forte has rushed for 4,233 yards on 1,014 carries (4.2 YPC) and scored 21 touchdowns. He's a important cog in Chicago's offense because of his versatility as a runner and a pass-catcher.
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