Chicago Sun-Times

Lovie Smith remains optimistic about Matt Forte's long-term future

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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Bears coach Lovie Smith said he's optimistic that Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte's contract status will be resolved in the next couple of months.

"My glass is always half full," Smith said from the NFC coaches breakfast this morning. "Everything you've ever heard from us, Matt Forte is our running back. In the offseason, negotiations go on. That's the time to take care of your contract situation, in the offseason. That's where we're at right now.

"Matt Forte hasn't missed anything that we've had here," Smith said later. "I think it's a little bit early. This is the offseason, and these things go on in the offseason."

Here are a few more questions and answers related to Forte:

Q: Do you wish Matt Forte's displeasure was more reigned in?
A: We're grown men, that make men decisions on how you want to handle a situation. I don't get too deep into that. I look at the offseason as a time to negotiate. You do it different ways.

Matt's been here a long time. He doesn't feel good about his contract situation, so he voiced that. It's no more than that. I don't make too big a deal about it. I've been in Chicago for a long time. I've seen a lot of contract situations go on.

In the end, if you know the person, you normally come to a good understanding, and that's what we'll do.

Q: Do you try to stay out of contract situations, so there's no issue between you and the player?
A: As much as I can. I'm the head football coach. I'm not the GM. I don't negotiate contracts. I don't negotiate my contract. I have an agent who does mine. Guys realize that.

But, at the same time, I want what's best for the Chicago Bears, always. And along with that, you want to see the players - especially the guys who have around a while that are your guys - get what they deserve. And normally it ends up happening that way.

Q: Forte had issues with former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. Does it make it hard for you, personally, to see a player who has done what he's done be so frustrated and not feel appreciated?
A: Going back to Jerry. I mean, I've heard it portrayed as, 'There's a problem with Jerry.' No. Matt Forte, as a football player, has a problem with our organization. You have to look at it that way instead of one person.

It's not about one person, ever. But, again, this is what happens in the offseason. That's the time to negotiate, to get what you feel you deserve. That's a part of the process. Matt is going through the process, which he should. He has people representing him. Again, he hasn't missed anything that we've ever done. So, again, I don't think we need to get too caught up in it.

Q: Did you give Matt a heads up before the Michael Bush signing?
A: Matt has an agent. I don't negotiate. What I've been doing is college visits and things like that. I'm not involved in negotiations. He has an agent, and we have people that handle that.

Q: Did you communicate with them?
A: There are negotiations that go on always. So, I'll just say that. There are no surprises on what's happening. Are we letting everyone know what we're going to do, every second, as far as strategy? No. Right now, when you're going things and talking to people, you want to keep it as hush-hush as possible. This is what all of our players need to know. We're doing everything we can improve our ball club. To get better teammates on the football team to help us win a championship. That's all they really want to know, is that.

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This is the one thing I would say Lovie does very well...deflect criticism and tough discussions. he handles things the way they should be handled in that regard.

The owners really worked over the NFLPA in this new CBA, and guys like Forte continue to pay the price for it. Do I think Forte deserves a Chris Johnson/Adrian Peterson type contract? Absolutely not. When you have to come off the field on critical short yardage and goal line plays, you are not an elite back. You are a specialist, no matter whether that specialty is everything but short yardage. He deserves a contract somewhere in the range of Marshawn Lynch/Arian Foster, but no more than that.

I also would agree with the Bears if they did not give him that level of money. Why invest it there, when an undrafted free agent in Kahlil Bell showed he could deliver solid production when pressed into duty? Makes it hard to shell out big money for a guy. They could force him to play under the franchise tag, and it only hurts Forte to hold out. Until he signs the tender, he doesn't get paid. What I don't know is whether the Bears get cap relief for the weeks he doesn't get if he holds out until week 10.

Forte would be smart to sign the tender, and work towards a long term deal. If nothing else, he won't get less than 7.7 million this year. That's not bad for a specialist.

Foster: "The Texans did their part Monday, when Foster agreed to a five-year, $43.5 million contract that includes $20.75 million guaranteed, a $12.5 million signing bonus and $30 million in the first three years." Foster is a far better back than Forte, over the last two years he has over 2800 yards rushing, over 1200 yards receiving and 30 TD's. He did that in 2 fewer starts than Forte. Foster also has a better average than Forte.

Lynch: "Seattle Seahawks had re-signed stud running back Marshawn Lynch to a new four-year, $31 million contract that includes $17 million in guaranteed money, according to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.

Now, it was quite clear that the Seahawks weren't going to let Lynch go. Doing that would be unacceptable after they rode him to a number of wins.

If a multi-year contract could not be reached, many expected Seattle to slap him with the franchise tag. The salary for running backs is $7.7 million under this year's tag.

Lynch was a workhorse for the Seahawks, carrying the ball 285 times for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. His production was undeniable." Lynch had as many TD's last year as Forte has had in his last two seasons.

Neither Lynch or Foster come off the field in short yardage.

Johnson and Peterson got Crazy contracts but all you really want to look at is the first three years of all these Deals. They are not worth much after that.

Peterson 40 million first 3 years $36 million guaranteed

Johnson Just under 40 million in the first 3 years $30 million guaranteed.

Foster 30 Million in the first 3 years, $20.75 million guaranteed

For a guy who does not score much, is limited in short yardage, can't pound the ball, and bounces everything outside he sure wants a big contract. His first contract offer was said to be in line with what Gore and Charles got. But that wasn't enough for Matt, cause he runs around between the 20's.

Matt Forte was our offense for nearly two entire seasons. Chances were this: If Forte runs well? We'd more than likely win, if Forte ran well and received well? We'd definitely win, if Forte did neither well? We lost... Maybe he comes out of the game in short yardage situations... but imagine where we'd be if he simply was out of every game (much like the end of this passed season). You define an elite back by his contributions holistically... not situationally. Matt Forte deserves his share. That is not so undeniable. Throw stats around all you want, compare other teams' backs all you want... the end of the day holds the same truth and principle, he's proven to be nearly eighty percent of our offense as of recent. Payment is definitely due.

Lovie Smith needs to be fired. If you read between the lines of all of his deflecting answers you'll notice that he basically said "I wasn't doing my job because I was having dinner with prospects." You're supposed to be the football coach right? The HEAD coach at that....there shouldn't be ANYTHING that escapes you, especially about your starting all-pro runningback. It's disgraceful the lethargic stance that Lovie Smith takes on everything. The bears players win in spite of this guy, just look at last season, and the year before. Everyone blames Martz for the offensive ineptitude and up to a point they are correct. But let us not forget that Coach Smith is supposed to be in charge of all things on the field, and if a play is not ideal for a given situation he should put a stop to it. Or if he notices that Cutler is taking non stop punishment he should find ways to adjust it. His personnel decisions are rediculous. Devin Hester is a PR not a WR as he has demonstrated. He was a CB in college and with the speed he has he could easily have been a great CB potentail HOF. He has kept his job for this long because Jerry Angelo was always there to ensure that he had a job so Smith was able to sit back and take a lethargic, non-chalant method of coaching. Once Lovie Smith is fired! then the Bears can REALLY start to rebuild, until this happens Phil Emery will just have to deal with this next season of Smith's contract.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on March 28, 2012 9:28 AM.

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