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How much Bears 'need' Forte overhangs possible contract talks

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How much Bears 'need' Forte overhangs possible contract talks

Matt Forte was direct and blunt after the Bears signed former Raider running back Michael Bush early in this offseason. He said he felt disrespected.

In some ways, its very likely he was. But not in a simplistic we-dont-like-you kind of way, possibly not the way Forte envisions.

The Bush signing was intended to be an elite-grade addition to depth at a franchise-altering position. The Bears have done the same thing with Kevin Jones, Chester Taylor and Marion Barber in recent offseasons.

Bush just happens to be the best in a continuing elevation of the talent search which has gone from Jones and his torn ACL to Taylor and his steady decline as hes aged to Barber, still with something left but clearly not much since hes since retired. Bush is a potential starter; Forte was right about that.

Tilting away from 22

But what the Bears have done this offseason is steadily made themselves less and less dependent on a back even as good as Forte. Oversimplifying a little, and apart from any general devaluing of the running-back position, they just dont need Forte as desperately as they did a year ago.

Part of that is most evident in the major upgrades at wide receiver. The Bears did not trade for Brandon Marshall and draft Alshon Jeffery in the second round with the intention of Forte accounting for the nearly 40 percent of total offensive yardage as he did through the 11 complete games he played in 2011.

To stress one point here: The Bears absolutely, unequivocally want Forte in Chicago, for the foreseeable future. Thats not a question; thats why they put what they consider a very strong offer on the table for him nearly a year ago.

But where Johnny Knox and Roy Williams combined for 74 catches at one wideout spot, Marshall has averaged 95 in the five seasons since his rookie year. Knox and Williams combined for 4 touchdowns last season; Marshall averages more than 6.

Options increasing

More notable, Marshall and Jay Cutler were both under-used rookies in 2006. The next two years Marshall caught 102 and 104 Cutler passes, best in his career, plus 13 TDs.

And take talk of a Devin Hester package seriously. That will be more targeted and designed than the previous program of Hester basically as a straight-up starting receiver.

Fortes high-water production mark arguably may have been last season, when his value to the Bears also was at its peak. With the possible tilting of the offense toward a West Coast scheme (what Cutler, Marshall and Jeremy Bates worked in under Mike Shanahan in Denver), Fortes abilities have not declined in the least. The Bears simply have significant alternatives.

That does not drive the price up, regardless of what other running backs are receiving under their new contracts.

Very cloudy future

Indeed, unless a long-term deal does get done with Forte and there is salary cap space to conclude one -- it also is becoming increasingly difficult to envision a scenario in which Forte is a Bear in 2013.

The only way he creates value for himself is to play, and play well enough for the organization to pay him 7.7 million this year and deem him worth some 9.5 million next year.

Forte has not vilified the organization as some others have theirs but he has not always taken what could be characterized as the complete high road. Understandably; hes more than earned the right to say what he feels.

But hard feelings dont always completely go away. Up in New England, where franchise-tagged, All-Pro receiver Wes Welker was quoted as saying that his contract talks were getting worse, the sentiment is growing that this is Welkers last year as a Patriot. Boston Globe reporter Shalise Manza Young wrote that Welkers comments did not play well with the Patriots, and that organization does not have a long fuse with players out of step.

Forte is held in very high regard in the locker room and on the field. The Bears do want him signed. He is a unique back who fits in a West Coast, Mike Martz or just about any offensive scheme.

But how much more they will offer at a time when they have upgraded factors elsewhere in the offense is very problematic.

White Sox' Luis Robert not feeling pressure of Rookie of the Year hype

White Sox' Luis Robert not feeling pressure of Rookie of the Year hype

Of all the White Sox players this season, the spotlight has shined brightest on Luis Robert, but he says that’s not the reason for his recent five-game slump. In fact, Robert doesn’t even see himself as a new face of the franchise, despite all the hype surrounding his MLB debut and hot start to the season.

“I honestly don’t feel that way,” Robert said via team interpreter Billy Russo. “I just think that I’m the new guy.”

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It’s clear the pressure didn’t affect Robert earlier in the year as he notched at least one hit in his first six games, and racked up 14 hits through 10 games. As the impressive performances at the plate mounted, so did the buzz around the young centerfielder. But Robert insists he doesn’t think about it, even though he’s slashing a lowly .158/.200/.211 over his last five games, and out of the lineup for the first time in his career on Monday.

“I know everyone’s trying to talk about me, about my option for Rookie of the Year and that kind of stuff,” Robert said via Russo. “But for me I just feel like another guy for this team. I don’t feel that pressure, that attention. I know that it’s there, but I don’t think about that.”

So is this mini-slump due to an adjustment in the way pitchers are approaching Robert at the plate? Again, Robert says no.

“Pitchers have been attacking me the same way since the season started. I didn’t have good results the last few days, but I just have to keep working. There’s nothing different that they have done against me. It’s just a matter of results.”

Robert has shown a remarkable ability to adjust to a pitcher’s approach mid-game. Now it’s time to see how he adjusts to a little major league adversity.


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2020 NHL Draft: Winner of No. 1 pick revealed at Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery

2020 NHL Draft: Winner of No. 1 pick revealed at Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery

After the No. 1 pick went to a placeholder team — that would be eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the NHL's 24-team postseason under the Return to Play program — in Phase 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery in June, the top pick for the 2020 NHL Draft was awarded to an actual team in Phase 2 of the lottery on Monday. 

The New York Rangers won the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft on Monday during Phase 2 of the lottery.

The Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets were also in the running and all had a 12.5% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick along with the Rangers in Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery.

The No. 1 pick of this year's draft is expected to be forward Alexis Lafrenière, who registered 35 goals and 77 assists for a league-leading 112 points in 52 games this season with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL, where he also served as the team captain. 

No team has held the No. 1 pick finishing better than 26th in the standings since the 1995 NHL Draft, and no team made the top pick after playing in a postseason series since the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Draft.

The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10. It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which paused the NHL on March 12.

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