The general consensus in the NFL is that running backs are a dime a dozen. They take a huge amount of wear and tear and their decline is precipitous. (See also: Willie Parker, Larry Johnson, Thomas Jones and Chris Johnson among many, many others.)
So is it worth the Bears tossing the franchise tag and $7.7 million dollars a year at Matt Forte? Yes.
You know the last Bears Pro Bowl running back before Matt Forte? Neal Anderson. Since then, it's been a bungled mess of Ironhead Heywards, Curtis Enises and Rashaan Salaams. Remember when the Bears had Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson? It cut ties with both of them, only to watch them run wild with other teams. Maybe that's an indictment of the offensive line for the last 25 years. Maybe it's a curse. Who knows?
But when Forte was on the field last year, the Bears were dangerous. He showed the elusiveness and pass-catching ability of a Marshall Faulk-type back. He's the kind of player who gets the ball in space and terrifies defenders.
Given the sorry state of the receiving corps, the Bears have to have someone who can break a tackle or evade a defender. With nearly every other Bear, as soon as the ball touches his hands, he hits the dirt. But Forte has balance and speed and a knack for weaving out of danger.
You can't put a price tag on that. Except the Bears just did. $7.7 million a year. He's earned it.