NFL Network's Jason La Canfora has reported that Bush will earn $7 million guaranteed on a four-year, $14 million contract. That's a reasonable number for a versatile, powerful three-down back like Bush. It also makes it less likely that the team will sign Forte to a long-term extension.
The Bears and Forte have been publicly negotiating a potential long-term deal for more than a year. It's now hard to see Forte getting the deal he wants. Forte hinted earlier this year that he might skip offseason activities if the Bears were to place the franchise tag on him, which they recently did. With Bush now in town, the Bears can afford to be patient.
Forte, unsurprisingly, isn't happy.
There's only so many times a man that has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last....- Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 22, 2012
This is going to get worse before it gets better. Forte and the Bears figure to be the ugliest player-team battle of this offseason, which is a shame because Forte has always been a team-first player.
Chicago's handling of Forte may not be fair, but it's good business. The Bears are essentially telling Forte that they are happy to pay him on a year-to-year basis. Forte can hold out all he wants this offseason, but he eventually has to show up to get paid.
The Bears could retain Forte again with a more expensive franchise tag next season. Entering the 2014 season, Forte will be 28 years old and have a lot of mileage on his legs.
This is the state of running backs in the NFL. Teams don't want to pay them big money, and they can get away with avoiding it.
Forte has to decide whether he's willing to operate on a year-to-year basis or take a long-term deal that he would likely believe to be below market value. By signing Bush, the Bears have limited Forte's options.