Cubs

A Forte overview: '22' needed to play in 2011

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A Forte overview: '22' needed to play in 2011

By 3 p.m. Chicago time on Monday, Matt Forte either will have a multi-year contract with the Bears or a one-year deal paying him a guaranteed 7.74 million under the teams franchise tag. He wont be happy about the latter, may not overjoyed with what the former ends up being, but it will be his only option for the 2012 season.

It is a situation both enviable and unenviable (depending on your feelings about someone stuck with a one-year salary just a little south of 8 million.)

A question that may nag Forte and agent Adisa Bakari is whether or not there was a window of opportunity missed to this point.

It shouldnt.

The overall here is that neither Forte nor the Bears is the heavy. Two parties in a negotiation simply disagree on a value. The Bears have left a solid offer on the table for nearly a year now; Forte sees what others at his position have gotten and wants more. The Bears have an interim ceiling amount available to them under the rules and theyre using it.

(If Forte wants to take issue with anyone, it might be his players association, for reasons coming up shortly.)

Holding out no real option now or then

Holding out is sometimes the only leverage available to an NFL player. For Forte, it wasnt a realistic course of action last year and its even less of one now.

One slant on the extended Forte situation has been that he made a mistake by not holding out during camp and into the 2011 season, when his leverage perhaps was stronger. The Bears had what they considered a solid multi-year offer on the table at the time camp opened. Forte demurred and he played, played very well.

In reality Forte needed those superb weekly performances to make the case that he now has in front of the Bears. He simply was not Matt Forte, elite back going into last year.

He finished the 2010 season with only one 100-yard rushing game and two rushing touchdowns over his last five -- clearly not the stuff of elite even with his consistently high presence in the passing offense.

The 2010 season was his first ever with more than a 3.9-yard average. He needed to play in 2011, not hold out.

Indeed, a good case can be made that then-GM Jerry Angelo and the organization were offering a deal that was reflective of what they thought Forte was on his way to becoming, not so much what hed done. The Bears were not going to bury the salary needle for a back with only one of his three seasons averaging more than 4.0 yards per carry.

He was not going to pry the Bears off their position by not playing last season.

This isnt suggesting that Forte was obligated to play simply because he had a contract. That may seem like a logical point of order, but the reality of NFL contracts is that teams fail to honor contracts whenever they cut a player with time remaining on his deal. Contracts arent guaranteed beyond specified bonuses and if a team can hold out when a player has a contract, the reverse should apply as well.

And Forte was still playing under and out-performing his rookie contract, not a renegotiated longer-term deal.

For different reasons, holding out in the 2012 season hurts Forte but arguably not the Bears. They spent this offseason diversifying their offense and roster in ways that make them less dependent on Forte or any one player (even Jay Cutler, with the addition of Jason Campbell).
The time crunch

Fortes public persona has ticked up and down during the process, from a near-universal pay the man sentiment during the first half of the 2011 season to less enthusiastic support during times he voiced unhappiness.

But Forte wanting to squeeze this situation for everything possible is less greed than recognition that this is potentially his only major contract.

Do the math.

Forte is 26. A four-year deal sends him onto the market at age 30 or, more likely, adding a year, maybe two, onto this deal in the form of an extension. That will not carry with it the kind of guaranteed money that comes with either a franchise tag or multi-year deal, regardless of what a new TV deal does to the cap in a couple years.

Forte and the Bears can both read a contract. They also can read a calendar.

The CBA twist

The franchise tag, as Phil Emery said in his first public comments after becoming Bears general manager, was negotiated by the players and the league. The Bears and every team were accorded the right to hold onto a key player with a pair of platinum handcuffs.

Players may not like it but it has always been part of the collective bargaining agreement since its 1993 inception as a concession to owners, giving them a means of retaining a franchise player for a year as long as the salary was the average of the top five at his position.

That took an unfortunate (for Forte) twist in the renegotiated CBA package arrived at a year ago. Instead of the franchise tag guaranteeing players the average of the top five for the most recent season, it became the average of the top five for the past five seasons.

For Forte, Ray Rice in Baltimore and others, that meant the guaranteed tag salary dropped from 9.5 million previously to 7.74 million. Thats not unique to running backs; the same happened to other positions like wide receiver (Wes Welker, New England) and defensive end (Cliff Avril, Detroit).

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.