The contract impasse between Matt Forte and the Bears is among the more closely watched personnel stories in the NFL this offseason. Fortes presence or absence projects as a factor in any balance-of-power discussion in the NFC North specifically and the NFC in general.
The team, from President Ted Phillips to GM Phil Emery to coach Lovie Smith, has been consistent that Forte will be in Chicago, period, this season. But some other teams can be forgiven for playing what-if with the unhappy running back.
CSNNE.com colleague Tom Curran and columnist Rich Levine elaborate on a Rotoworld.com assessment that Forte might be a trade prospect for the New England Patriots.
No scenario has been floated by credible Bears sources where that has been a possibility. But it wouldnt be the first time that the Bears and Patriots talked about a deal involving a major running back.
The Pats wanted to trade with the Bears on draft day 1998, giving the Bears the 18th and 22nd picks of the first round in exchange for the Bears at No. 5. The target was running back Curtis Enis.
No deal was concluded (the Jacksonville Jaguars offered more but Jags chief Tom Coughlin so angered Mark Hatley that the Bears hung up the phone and took Enis). And one isnt likely in the Forte case as well.
The problem, as it is right now in Chicago, is money. Forte has not agreed to the Bears long-term offer with guaranteed money in the double-digit millions, and the Patriots not too long ago went through a testy situation with an unhappy player under a franchise tag (guard Logan Mankins). Theyre unlikely to take on another without working out the money, and they are a team that has not invested heavily in running backs in the past.
Besides, if Forte holds out, the Bears wont have their No. 1 back but they signed Michael Bush and would be saving more than 450,000 per Forte-less game.
The Bears did not cave in on Lance Briggs during his franchise-tag contretemps. They will listen to offers everyone does but that should be as far as it goes.