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Matt Forte, Chicago Bears agree to deal just before Monday’s deadline for franchised players

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After prolonged contract negotiations, the Chicago Sun-Times reports the Bears have agreed to a four-year deal that will average the fifth-year player $8 million a season. The deal came just hours before the NFL's deadline for long-term deals with franchised players.

This puts an end to the ongoing drama that hung over Forte and the Bears since before the start of the 2011 season. Forte, dealing with then-Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, turned down a deal. After the Bears hired Phil Emery as the new GM, the team gave Forte the franchise tag. Though Forte was not happy about it, the tag ended up being a negotiating tool to get them to a deal.

For four years, Forte has been the Bears' most consistent offensive weapon. He has 4,233 rushing yards over four seasons. That number might be larger, if it were not for the injury sustained in Week 13 of 2011. He also adds value as a receiver. For a running back, he has good hands and a connection with Jay Cutler, and caught for 490 yards in 2011. For much of last season, fans held signs pleading, "Pay Forte!" and his teammates backed up his decision to sit out minicamp and voluntary workouts.

"Well, I don't have to tell Matt Forte what his value to our team is," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs recently told Shutdown Corner.
[Michael Silver: Jaguars unlikely to meet MJD's contract demands]

"He's proven himself, and I think we all know how valuable he is. But as far as players getting compensated, this is not a guaranteed league. Football is not like baseball or basketball, where if you sign a deal with a team, that's the money you're going to make, no matter what. So, this league is built off of, 'What have you done for me lately?' Either you're performing at the level of your contract, or you're underperforming, or you're overperforming. And if you're underperforming, teams tend to cut you or trade you, or do what they want with you. When you're outplaying your contract, as a player, you have to go to your team and ask for a raise. And if they don't want to give you a raise, you ask to be traded or to get another opportunity to make more money while you can. It's a business."

In this case, the long-term deal made business sense. Signing Forte to a four-year deal gave both the Bears players and fans what they wanted.

It's the latest move the Bears have made to bolster the offense. In March, they traded for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, who put his best numbers when he played with Cutler in Denver. They also added running back Michael Bush, and drafted receiver Alshon Jeffery. At the end of the 2011 season, they also parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Martz and promoted Mike Tice to the job. Jeremy Bates, the quarterbacks coach who worked with Cutler and Marshall in Denver, was added to the Bears staff.

Now, the Bears offense will have a different look than the one that fell apart after Forte and Cutler were injured. They are also assured they will hold on to their star running back for another four seasons.

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