With recent reports circulating that the Chicago Bears will use the Franchise Tag on running back Matt Forte, it will begin an ongoing saga of back and forth contract negotiations between the Bears and Forte.
Although tagging Forte does not necessarily mean a long-term deal cannot be worked out it also does not help the cause.
Forte has made it clear he wants a lucrative contract extension with Chicago and the Bears had been reluctant to give it to him.
It makes sense from both parties as to why they hold the positions they do. Forte wants the long-term security and the Bears do not want to overpay for a running back when it is not always the smartest thing to do.
Regardless of whether you agree with Forte or the Bears, something has to be done in order to ensure Forte will stay a Chicago Bear for the next few years.
Placing the franchise tag on Forte benefits both him and the Bears. If Forte signs for the franchise tag he will be paid the average salary of the top-5 paid running backs in the league. The money is guaranteed.
The Bears will get another year out of Forte without having to pay him big-time money. If Forte does end up playing for the franchise tag and has another big season the Bears may be forced to pay him what he wants.
For Forte, playing under a one-year contract is extremely dangerous for his future because if he were to suffer a severe injury he would probably not get anywhere close to the money is he worth.
It also needs to be mentioned that former Chicago GM Jerry Angelo was handling contract negotiations. New GM Phil Emery may have an entirely different viewpoint on the situation.
A worst-case scenario for Bears fans would be if Emery decides not to tag Forte and lets him become a free agent. This is highly unlikely seeing as Forte is the Bears' best offensive weapon other than quarterback Jay Cutler.
Forte has also said that if he is tagged he might be “very difficult to find once Training Camp starts.”
It never ends well when players hold out, especially running backs. Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson held out for a big chunk of Training Camp this past season and had the worst season of his career.
A few years ago Kansas City Chiefs' running back Larry Johnson held out of Training Camp and had the worst year of his career that same season.
The Bears are also all too familiar with running backs holding out. In 2005, first round Draft pick Cedric Benson held out for almost all of camp and was the last rookie to sign. He never made any impact with the Bears and his tenure was marred by off-the-field issues, and poor play on it.
If Forte is serious about wanting a long-term deal he needs to show up to camp and not hold out. The Bears have a history of not negotiating with players who are holding out.
Devin Hester wanted more money after his second year in the league and held out of the first few days of camp and only got his extension when he reported to camp.
Holding out does more harm to the player and the team. It also shows that you are putting yourself before the team. Although most players will completely understand Forte’s stance there has to be some sort of resentment he is not there.
Another issue to look at would be if Forte holds out, gets his money and has a bad season. People will point to the fact that he was not in Training Camp as a reason as to why he played poorly.
The franchise tag presents interesting options for both the team and the player. As we have seen though before with placing the franchise tag on players, it also may lead to the player holding out of camp.
The worst thing that can happen is the Bears tag Forte; he holds out for a majority of Training Camp and is not the same player he has been throughout his career.
Too much is riding on the 2012 season for a lot of people in the Bears organization for Forte not to be at his best.
It may be best for the Bears to just sign him to an extension and pay him his money.