With OTAs set to begin for the Chicago Bears in two weeks, how much money would it take to make sure that Matt Forte doesn't begin his holdout on that day?
While it was great to hear Ted Phillips attempt to shoot down trade rumors and reinforce the idea that the Bears would actually let Matt Forte play under the franchise tag in 2012, it's still up to Matt Forte to decide when he wants to join the team while tagged. Until Matt Forte agrees that the Chicago Bears have indeed made “a strong offer”, as Ted Phillips put it, Forte could hold out for most of, if not all of the off-season.
The absence of Matt Forte during the off-season would hurt the Bears as they begin to learn and practice Mike Tice's new offense. Though there is carryover from Martz' offense, there will be plenty of new wrinkles added by both Tice and Bates, which Forte will be behind on, should he decide to hold out during the off-season.
So just how much money would it take for the Chicago Bears to lock down Matt Forte and have him show up a happy camper this off-season? How much money does Matt Forte think he's worth and what is he likely asking for?
When talking about his own value, we've heard Matt Forte refer to his production and how it compares to the highest paid, elite running backs. It's safe to assume that he's doing the same thing via his agent during contract negotiations. While there are several statistics that compare the production of running backs, the most favorable measurement for Matt Forte is the average of total yards gained per season. Lucky for him, it's also a good statistic to use as it does factor in durability and serves to reveal just how much value a team is actually getting per contract year. Therefore, to try to find out just how much money Matt Forte wants, I've decided to create a handy table that does just what Matt Forte suggests: compare his production to the contracts of other recently signed and/or elite running backs.
As you can see, Matt Forte ranks third on this list, placing him ahead of both recently signed running backs Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch. You'll also notice that Matt Forte is ahead of DeAngelo Williams, whom many analysts feel was overpaid. Overpaid or not, Williams' contract is still a factor in running back negotiations as evidenced by Foster's deal. It's no coincidence that Foster's contract average per year is $100K more than Williams'.
I'm sure Matt Forte's agent has looked at a table very similar, if not identical to this to help determine what his client's worth is. If you're Adisa Bakari, Matt Forte's agent, you're going to fight to make sure your client gets at least the $8.6M per year contract average that DeAngelo Williams received and close to if not more than the $8.7M per year contract average that Arian Foster recently signed for. In terms of guaranteed money, you'd feel obligated as Matt Forte's agent to ask for at least the $4.25M per year guaranteed average that Marshawn Lynch recently signed for, while also making sure that the total guaranteed money is close to, if not more than the $21M that Williams received.
Using the aforementioned data points, the parameters for Matt Forte's deal are a contract average of no less than $8.5M per year, a guaranteed average of around $4.25M per year, and a total guarantee of at least $21M. That being said, if the Chicago Bears want to end this contract standoff before it ever begins, without Matt Forte missing any off-season time, their “strong offer” needs to be around 5 years, $42.5M with $21.25M guaranteed.
It seems pretty clear to me what the market for Matt Forte is worth at this time. As such, it will continue to be hard for the Bears to try to expect for Matt Forte to take anything less than what he's clearly worth. If I'm the Chicago Bears and I really want Matt Forte as part of my team for the next few years, then I make him the offer he's looking for before he ever sees dollar one under the franchise tag. Also, I offer him the deal sooner rather than later so that you can get a well-prepared Matt Forte, versus the hold out version that will likely have to catch up during the first few games of the regular season.