"Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear," general manager Phil Emery told the team's official website. "We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond."
Forte sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4 and sat out the rest of the season.
He was still selected to his first Pro Bowl, finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing in his fourth season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Forte came into last season looking for an extension, but did not reach an agreement with the Bears.
A league source told NFL Network's Albert Breer that the team and Forte's representatives began negotiating his contract situation at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The Bears have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal with Forte.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.