Franchise tag just the first step for Forte


Franchise tag just the first step for Forte

The anticipated franchise designation was assigned to running back Matt Forte on Friday. It isnt projected to make Forte particularly happy, even with its 7.7 million guaranteed money when he signs the contract. But it does project to keep him a Chicago Bear, and that was really the point.

It also is not likely to be the end of contract transactions for Forte.

The expectation is that he and agent Adisa Bakari, who has met with GM Phil Emery since Emery succeeded Jerry Angelo, will agree to a longer-term contract. That will allow the Bears to give Forte more guaranteed money and to average out the money over more years rather than full deal hitting in this contract year, which it does with the franchise tag.

Forte has hinted that he would be a little hard to find around Halas Hall if he received the tag. And the two sides have until July 15 to work out a longer deal.

The Bears gave an offer to Forte at the outset of last training camp and did not move enough to suit Fortes side, leaving him to play out the 2011 season under his rookie deal for less than 600,000.

Forte didnt hold out over that situation. The tag isnt what he wants, but New England guard Logan Mankins, who was tagged by the Patriots before he eventually worked out a long-term deal, told during Super Bowl week that holding out over the tag is simply too much money to leave on the table.

The 2012 tag is not the only leverage the Bears have in the Forte situation.

The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to apply the tag for a second year, albeit for more money but still not for the amount Forte would expect to net under a multi-year deal.

Forte, who missed four games this season with a knee injury, is at some risk even with the 2012 tag. It is a one-year pact and the team is under no obligation to use the tag a second time or work on a new contract if Forte is injured again.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”