The Bears gained a small, but not insignificant, measure of leverage against a possible holdout by Matt Forte when backup running back Kahlil Bell signed his one-year tender offer Monday. Bell will make $1.26 million in 2012.
Bell, 25, played in five games after Forte suffered a knee injury and rushed for 337 yards on 79 carries (4.3 yards per carry). He also had 19 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown.
The 5-11, 219-pound Bell had one of the Bears' six 100-yard rushing games -- gaining 121 yards on 23 carries (5.3 per carry) in a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Dec. 25. He also had four receptions for 38 yards in that game. His 159 yards from scrimmage was the fifth best single-game total for a Bears running back last year.
Forte still has not signed a one-year $7.6 million contract offer as the Bears' franchise player. The Bears signed former Raiders running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million contract in free agency. Should Forte return to the fold, Bell would be the No. 3 running back going into training camp. He also became a contributor on special teams in 2010.
Bell, a UCLA product, was signed by the Bears after being cut by the Vikings in 2009. He played in seven games in 2009 -- including a 72-yard run on his first NFL carry, a Bears rookie record. He was active for all 18 games in 2010 but did not play.