Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte want pretty much the same thing, pretty much what every NFL player wants, and for that matter, pretty much what anybody working anywhere wants:
But the Bears tight end and running back are going about making that demand in diametrically opposite ways. And if Bears history is any indicator, it’s unlikely that both methods will work get what they want in the form of a new contract this offseason with new money, from the Bears or anyone else.
Forte is entering the final year of the four-year contract he signed in the 2012 offseason. Forte did not attend the voluntary veterans minicamp or the offseason program but was on hand Wednesday for the start of the team’s organized team activities.
Bennett also signed a four-year deal, in 2013, and has two years remaining on the contract, which currently projects to pay him $10 million over the next two seasons.
But Bennett has yet to attend a Bears practice or workout, looking to induce the Bears to either tear up the contract or trade him to a team that will.
The big difference
One significant difference between Bennett and Forte is that Forte wants to remain a Chicago Bear. Bennett, not necessarily so.
“You've got to be patient in these type of thing and nobody's going to force anybody's hand on either side, so you just have to be patient,” Forte said, recalling his own at-times-tense contract process that saw the Bears use their franchise tag to buy time for negotiations.
”The situation a couple years ago was being vastly underpaid; that's not the situation now. It's more of this year is more of just like lowering the cap number and trying to continue my legacy as a Bear and trying to retire that way. It happens to be whatever shakes out, whatever they think.”
A casual guess at this point of the process is that Forte will get a year added to his contract, with some up-front money that goes with these kinds of transactions.
Bennett is creating an altogether different situation. He would like to be traded to a team promising new paper.
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The Thomas Jones saga
But holding out can completely sabotage that possibility, and has in one notable Bears case.
A decade ago the Bears signed running back Thomas Jones to a four-year deal worth $10 million and which was about twice the next best offer Jones had in 2004. Jones had a respectable season but not enough to dissuade the Bears from using the No. 4 pick of the 2005 draft on Cedric Benson to replace Jones. Jones responded to the job threat with the best season of his career to that point.
Jones, with two years still to go on his deal, then demanded a trade and refused to report for the offseason.
The Bears and GM Jerry Angelo in fact managed to work out a deal to an AFC team in need of a running back. But when that team’s personnel head learned that Jones was a holdout, he shot down the deal. Angelo eventually reached an agreement privately with Jones that if the running back gave the Bears a strong third season, Angelo would accommodate Jones’ wish. Jones rushed for 1,210 yards, the Bears reached the Super Bowl and Angelo honored his word and dealt Jones to the New York Jets.
The point, however, was that holding out can kill the other team’s interest in trading for a player who has established himself as a potential contract problem. Bennett played at a Pro Bowl level in 2014 and wants to be paid at a higher level, which is not unreasonable, just unlikely, at least by the Bears at this point. And GM Ryan Pace is in no hurry in his first year to be viewed as someone who caves to pressure when he holds the current leverage.