We keep hearing that workhorse, primary running backs are outdated. We also keep reporting monster contracts for running backs. Apparently, NFL general managers haven't received the memo.
Bears running back Matt Forte excels despite Chicago's offensive line. He fits in every system, which is a big factor with the Bears changing offenses once again. He might not have one elite skill outside of his receiving ability, but he does everything well.
Paying running backs huge dollars rarely makes business sense. (The Kansas City Chiefs with Larry Johnson and the Seattle Seahawks with Shaun Alexander agree.) That hasn't stopped teams from shelling out huge bucks for Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster.
"They're trying to devalue it in order to stop paying us like we're game-changers," Forte told Sports Illustrated last week.
If that's how NFL teams think, they have a funny way of showing it. Forte is a high-volume running back whom the Bears had under control with the franchise tag. Running back is the most fungible position in the league, and these contracts should be about future performance, not the past. Going year-to-year with Forte wasn't a bad deal for Chicago.
We need to see the final contract numbers and structure before passing final judgment. Forte likely isn't getting Arian Foster money. We suspect Forte's four-year deal will be similar to what Marshawn Lynch got from the Seahawks. (Lynch got $22.5 million in the first three years of his deal.)
This simply could be a case where the Bears bent to public pressure. Forte is a team leader, and his campaign for a new contract has been going on for two years. The Bears now avoid a distraction and send a message to the locker room that great play will be rewarded. There has been plenty of rumbling to the contrary in Chicago over the last five years.
The contract also sends a message to overachieving young running backs. Don't believe the hype when everyone says big-time primary backs are out of fashion.