When the Bears slapped a franchise tag on running back Matt Forte, they said their intention was to keep negotiating to get a long-term contract. The franchise tag means Forte would make around $7.7 million, but getting a long-term deal became much more expensive over the weekend.
First, the Seattle Seahawks signed running back Marshawn Lynch to a four-year deal worth $31 million with $18 million guaranteed. In six seasons, Lynch has 4,542 yards. This morning, Buffalo locked down marquee wide receiver Stevie Johnson for a reported five years and $36 million.
In both instances, a player who was the key to his team's offensive success had a huge payday. Forte now has data to back up how deserving he is a of a payday. Forte has proven to be a more consistent performer than Lynch. In four seasons, he ran for 4,233 yards. He averaged 123.83 all-purpose yards per game in 2011, while the Bears offense averaged 314 yards. As a running back, He was responsible for just under forty percent of the Bears yardage.
Lynch and Johnson are not nearly as valuable to their teams. Neither is as versatile as Forte, who has proven an ability to both run and catch. Lynch was responsible for 30 percent of Seattle's offense, while Johnson's catches accounted for 17 percent of Buffalo's yardage.
The market is working in Forte's favor. To keep him on the Bears for a long time, the team will need to open their checkbook.