Time to Put Contract Talks Aside and Play Football...............
Time for contract talk coming to end
Contract demands can't be allowed to derail season
David Haugh's In the Wake of the News 6:01 a.m. CDT, September 2, 2011
Forget the veteran offensive lineman or wide receiver you still want Bears general manager Jerry Angelo to buy before the team sets its roster at 53.
Angelo first needs to be in the market for a good shredder.
It will come in handy if the Bears don't trade linebacker Lance Briggs or sign running back Matt Forte to a contract extension by 6 p.m. Sunday -- the deadline Angelo should impose for dealing with these distractions.
As the preseason ended Thursday night with the Bears' 24-14 yawner over the Browns, neither transaction seemed likely to happen this weekend. If not, at 6:01 p.m. Sunday, Angelo needs to shred the official trade request agent Drew Rosenhaus made on behalf of Briggs before Thursday's kickoff and any paperwork related to the protracted contract negotiations with Forte.
It's time for everyone at Halas Hall to stop dancing around finances and start focusing on football.
The Bears wisely rested 13 starters against the Browns because they wanted to go into the season opener in the best physical shape. Requiring Briggs and Forte to deal only with football beginning Monday morning will help the Bears get where they need to be mentally too.
Remember, how the Bears fare in the first three games could determine the direction of 2011. Every hour of preparation the Bears allow Briggs and Forte to waste pursuing their own interests threatens to sabotage the season.
Unwelcome but real challenges persist. Given the ruckus Forte and Briggs have made over their contracts, can anybody guarantee their state of mind if they report to work Monday under the status quo? Not even Forte could when I broached the topic after the game.
"I have to stay positive and hope it gets done to eliminate distractions in the regular season, (but) I'm human,'' Forte told me. "I'm going to be distracted by something like this. I just hope it does get done.''
It comes as less of a surprise that Briggs' demand for a raise escalated Thursday into an official trade request once Rosenhaus got involved. Forcing trades is Rosenhaus' forte, and ask former Bear Greg Olsen if you doubt it. He is like a de facto assistant GM. (And it's all the more reason that JA should tell Rosenhaus to go pound sand. He does it because it gets him a new payday right along with the player. There's 90%of the motivation behind this trade request right there. New team = new contract. The NFL should suspend this guys rights as an agent)
Unhappy how the franchise has been portrayed in these contract spats, Angelo declined comment on whether the Bears will grant Rosenhaus permission to negotiate a trade with other teams. But they should just to test Briggs' resolve. Briggs would be making a colossal mistake forcing a trade from a team whose Cover-2 system has helped make him a six-time Pro Bowl selection. (This last is a very good point. The right system can make a player but rarely vice versa. Wilbur Marshall never played as well in Washington as he did in Chicago)
Imagine Briggs' reaction -- and regret -- if the Bears found a taker to give up a third-round draft pick. If they called Briggs' bluff by trading him and plugged still-unsigned veteran Lofa Tatupu or untested Brian Iwuh into the scheme. Remember the Bears' mantra about the star of the defense being the defense? (Trading him for a 3rd round pick would be insane. I'd tell Rosenhaus that if he can go and find a team willing to give up two 1st round picks we'll do it otherwise Lance Briggs plays out his contract.)
Briggs made his point, loudly, but now needs to wait until late winter for more contractual histrionics. Angelo can help Briggs realize that by refusing to discuss his contract after Sunday. Rosenhaus can stay in Miami. (Yep because now that he's already refused an accomodation now it is time to play hardball with Briggs and his Doberman.
Are Forte and agent Adisa Bakari dangerously overestimating the running back's worth? (My guess would be yes)
The Bears' best offer has yet to approach a reported $14 million in guarantees. If it had, you would know because we likely would have a deal. Forte's camp wants to match or exceed the contract 49ers running back Frank Gore signed -- worth $13.5 million guaranteed -- but that assumes a lot. Gore, three years older at 28 and more accomplished, has made two Pro Bowls. Forte, fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage since 2008, fits the Bears' offense but has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry only once in three seasons. (Then is would seem that the rumors are wrong).
If the sides can't strike a deal by Sunday night guaranteeing between $10 million and $12 million -- a reasonable sum Forte would be foolish to turn down -- then Angelo should make two things clear. First, negotiations are over. Second, the team will use the franchise tag next February to keep Forte at least through 2012, barring injury. (Not sure I would halt the negotiations and slam the door shut on him but there's no question I'd use the Franchise Tag and I wouldn't hesitate to tell them so)
"I don't think there's a deadline, but in the paper I read that Jerry said something about drawing a line in the sand,'' Forte said. "I guess that's his deadline. They're still negotiating.''
With the Falcons only nine days away, the Bears finished preseason with legitimate reason to believe they can have a winning record in a division full of tough opponents. Those chances will improve once the Bears stop making it tougher for themselves.
Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
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