The ripples from DeSean Jacksons five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, calling for 45 million and guaranteeing almost 21 million of it, may indeed come west as far as Chicago. But whether they reach as far as Matt Forte is still far from clear.
It can go one of three ways:
The Bears have the franchise tag in place and Forte is guaranteed 7.7 million when if he signs it. They hold the ace of trump here, just as the Baltimore Ravens do with running back Ray Rice, and they are within their collectively bargained rights to use the option accorded them.
Working in the Bears favor is what just transpired in New England, where All-Pro receiver Wes Welker just signed his franchise-tag tender offer for the one-year 9.5 million.
The notable element here is that players typically dont mind the tag as long as they view the situation as moving toward a long-term deal. Even Forte was of that mind.
Welker signed the tender, however, not because a deal was imminent, but just the opposite--that talks were getting worse.
He wasnt going to pass on the offseason sessions and wasnt seeing anything that said the team was coming his way financially.
His teammate, guard Logan Mankins, told CSNChicago.com during Super Bowl week that he signed his franchise-tag tender generally for a related reason He didnt see the Patriots moving and getting something done with him and he simply said the amount of the tag money was too big for him to just dig in his heels and hold out.
Forte will be 27 this season. Realistically, the Bears will not tag him for a second year in 2013 (which they can do). He, like Mankins and Welker, may just realize the other side just isnt going to do a deal and take the money and keep running since he has no choice and wont pass on 460,000 per game.
Pay the man
This is the complicated one. The Bears put what they considered a market deal on the table at the outset of training camp last year and they increased it.
Fortes side points to other deals as being the true market value, plus or minus depending on where Forte is valued vs. other top backs.
Brad Biggs over at the Tribune lays out some of the realities involving other contracts for running backs, which ostensibly do set some sort of market for top backs as being with some 20 million in guaranteed money. The Bears havent offered Forte that much and, with 14 million committed to a Michael Bush contract, its no given that they will.
Bears GM Phil Emery and finance man Cliff Stein are evaluating the teams position. They wont cave to public opinion this is business, not a plebiscite.
Split the difference
The best business deals are usually ones in which both sides walk away from the table a little grumpy. Its somewhere between a win-win and lose-lose, which is preferable from someone going away humiliated and beaten and the other fist-pumping at the win.
The question here is how long Forte projects to be performing at the elite level he has achieved. A five-year deal like McCoys works for the Eagles because McCoy is 23 and the team has the five years over which to amortize the money.
The Bears could pose to Forte that his window is not quite what McCoys is, meaning that their paying a 20 million guarantee isnt quite the same on a four-year deal as on a five.
So the Bears are at 14 million guaranteed. Forte wants, say, 20 million. In the middle, conveniently, is 17 million more than the Bears really have to pay and less than Forte probably would command on a truly open market.
The middle ground may be looking better and better to both.