While most NFL sources believe Matt Forte is destined to leave the Chicago Bears this offseason, the running back is not ready to count himself out just yet. Yes, Forte is going to be a free agent this offseason with a value that might exceed what the Bears can afford, but the running back made it clear that he has loyalty to the franchise and nothing regarding his future with the team has been decided heading into the official start of the offseason.
According to Spotrac.com, Forte is worth a contract that could pay him up to $7 million per season over the span of three years. For a running back at the age of 30, that is unheard of. Yes, Forte's numbers have never dipped and outside of the knee injury this season he has been a beacon of health for Chicago. However, Forte is an aging running back and regardless of his resume that will be the biggest factor in determining what he gets paid. Does that mean Chicago still has a chance to retain their franchise star?
"[General manager Ryan Pace] said he has a lot of respect for me. I have a lot of respect for him," Forte said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "The time will come when we have that conversation. Everybody's acting like it's a going-away party, like a funeral or something. No decisions have been made. I can be back."
Forte might find that no one in the league is willing to give him the money that he is reportedly worth. A typical contract for a running back his age normally does not exceed $4 million. Forte will have to determine if it is worth going somewhere else or staying in Chicago for slightly less. The Bears have his replacement on the roster. Jeremy Langford proved he can be a star for the team, but having forte as the veteran leader is still idea for Chicago rather than just having Ka'Deem Carey as the backup. This decision could be in the hands of Forte who will need to pick between money and loyalty.
The Bears have a lot of decisions to make and Forte might not be a priority off the bat. Alshon Jeffery's contract will be at the top of the list as the wide receiver will be very popular is available on the free agent market. Pace told ESPN.com that the team will consider everything with Jeffery since he has had a lot of injuries in his career. Jeffery will want a contract on par with what Dez Bryant and Julio Jones signed. If the Bears do not offer that, a franchise tag will be the best option.
Chicago will also need to decide between Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller. Bennett is overpaid statistically speaking while Miller is set to be a free agent. Bennett has the more consistent resume, but his recent criticism of the offense might speak louder in the long run.