BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – They were both topics of speculation and perhaps a bit more through much of the offseason but tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, who accounted for more than half the Bears’ total offense for 2014, have set any lingering contract issues off to the side.
Bennett is seeking a new contract to replace the four-year deal he signed in 2013. Forte is in the final year of his contract signed going into the 2012 season.
“When I was talking about the deal and that type of stuff, it really made sense,” said Forte, whose contract counts $9.2 million against the Bears’ cap, $7.05 million of it in base salary. "From my aspect I was trying to lower the cap number and then I’d be able to continue my career here as well. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Like I’ve said plenty of times both sides have to want to do it and then if they don’t want to see it that way then I have to wait until after the season and I’ll be a free agent.”
Bennett stayed away from nearly all offseason team activities before attending the mandatory minicamp in June. He caught a career-high 90 catches and earned a Pro Bowl appearance.
With an offense expected to commit to running the football, Bennett’s chances of equaling that reception total are open to question. Meaning that his value right now may indeed be at its highest point.
But a new coaching staff and front office will not take well to a player putting contract ahead of team.
“I mean, I’m not even worried about a contract right now,” Bennett said. “Right now I’m just coming out here just like every other guy out here just trying to make as many plays as I possibly can — outdo what I did last year and it will address itself.”
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GM Ryan Pace did not rule out those situations addressing themselves even before the end of this season.
“I don’t ever want to put parameters on contract extensions so we’re constantly talking to agents throughout the year so it will happen if it happens,” Pace said. “I don’t like to put time parameters on anything regarding that.”
The Bears were not interested in the distractions, contract or otherwise, brought on with players like Brandon Marshall. Coach John Fox will not be in the mood for player attention diverting to things other than football on the field.
“At the end of the day you want them to focus on what they’re doing and try to get better every day,” Fox said. “The less distractions you have, everybody has to fight their own demons and try to be above the line every day. Whether it’s a contract, whether it’s a nagging injury, whether it’s a conflict in some facet of their life, they have to overcome that. It’s just what we deal with. We’re very well compensated for what we do and those are the expectations.”