Chicago Bears’ running back, Matt Forte, is currently involved in a bitter dispute over his contract with the front office. Forte is only scheduled to make $1.9 million dollars in 2012, but the 2011 Pro Bowler feels strongly that he should be paid among the top running backs in the NFL. Forte has yet to report to camp or even contact the team and has said that he is prepared to sit out as long as it takes to get his big payday. This is extremely alarming to fantasy owners, especially for owners that plan on keeping the former Tulane star.
This is the exact same situation that happened to Tennessee Titans‘ running back, Chris Johnson, last season. Johnson’s holdout lasted all of training camp and caused him to miss the first three preseason games, before eventually signing a five-year, $12 million dollar contract extension with around $30 million dollars guaranteed. However, despite his big payday, Johnson’s lengthy holdout cost fantasy owners tremendously over the first half of the season. He had career lows across the board and had only one 100-yard game in his first eight starts. It was obvious that holding out for so long impacted the 2010 rushing champion, as he butchered more then his fair share of fantasy seasons in 2011.
Forte will likely go through the same type of slump if he decides to let his holdout reach the preseason, because he will not be able to use the team’s facility and not be able to work with his teammates. He needs to be in camp to get as many reps with the starting offense as possible since the off-season is about chemistry, just as much as it is about training.
Ironically the Bears did give themselves some insurance by bringing in former Oakland Raiders’ running back, Michael Bush. Bush was signed to a very lucrative 4-year, $14 million dollar contract amidst Forte’s contract holdout, and it was interesting to see the team bring in the premier free agent running back, if nothing else to make a point to their current running back. However, it had the opposite effect, as the acquisition only made Forte more steadfast in his holdout, something that could end up being disastrous for fantasy owners in the long run.
Forte, for some reason, has been given the unfortunate tag of being “injury prone” by some owners. The former Tulane star missed four games last year due to a sprained MCL in his knee, but those were the only games he has missed throughout his four-year career in Chi-town. The team has expressed their concern with his knees long-term, but it seems more like a negotiation tactic as opposed to a legitimate concern.
Forte should still be viewed as a top-ten running back in fantasy football, but his recent contract disputes will certainly drop him out of the first round in most fantasy formats. There are plenty of other running backs that have rigorously trained all off-season, and it is just too hard to justify taking Forte above a Darren McFadden or Maurice Jones-Drew, while Forte has yet to even put on a practice jersey.