1) I tend to agree with you in that it probably was Angelo's plan all along to franchise him if they couldn't get him to bite on the deal which we all agree was insultingly low if the numbers that have been rumored are true. But where's the leverage? If he holds out he gets zero pay and he hadn't exactly struck it rich with his rookie deal had he?
If he had still been sitting on a massive bonus he may have gotten as a first round pick or if this was an extension of a previous deal where he got a huge SB then yes, he had some leverage but that wasn't the case. He needed to either play or become rather poor very quickly.
2) We would have struggled somewhat with MB III and Bell for a game or two but once they got in synch they'd have been no worse at the beginning then at the end and maybe better with Cutler playing than they were with Hanie. Bell actually out performed Forte in his last four games when compared to Forte's last four. MB III isn't a fumble machine Ric. In 7 years he's lost 6 fumbles on over 1150 carries. Less than one per year and an average of only one fumble lost for every 192 carries. Bell fumbled 3 times last season but lost none according to the stats. I'm not saying Bell doesn't need to take better care of the ball but to label MB III as a fumbler is just wrong. He lost us a game with some poor play but his entire career isn't marked by that kind of play.
We would not have been as well off without Forte but we could have survived and in the long run it made no difference who was running the ball after Cutler went down. We were screwed.
3) Just because no team has yet levied that fine doesn't mean it's a non-factor. Why even have that language in the CBA if it means nothing. It's leverage for the team. They can fine a player for holding out and simply waive the fine if he ends the holdout and plays or signs his tender but that doesn't mean it's not there and that it has no effect.
Call it the NFL's version of plea bargaining. Anyone whose been through so much as a serious traffic violation understands the leverage a plea bargain gives the prosecution as far as getting you to plead to a lesser offense especially when they're unsure they could get a conviction on the greater one anyway. You're fear of being convicted of it is their leverage though, so you take the deal right? I think it works in a similar manner in the NFL. It certainly doesn't give a player any leverage.
4) Ric I think it's all about perceptions. We may perceive that he had more leverage but that would mean we believe the Bears weren't prepared to play without him and Angelo would have caved. I believe the Bears would not have done that thereby setting a precedent other could use against them later. This is the Bears were talking about here and when the principal, principal involved is money they will not be stupid. This is not Daniel Snyder and the Skins we're talking about this is the Halas/McCaskey owned Bears.
I don't think JA would have caved and he would have let Forte stay out all season long and then still turned around and tagged him. You can't say he no tag to use. He did and he knew he was gonna use it if Forte wouldn't bite. We all did. You can't say no backup to play as a starter because he had a vet backup even if it was only MB III. Remember this is the guy who bought us RWill as a solution to our #1 WR problem and Meriweather to take over from Harris or Wright at Safety. And don't forget Vernon Gholston as a pass rusher.
Let me just say that you see the flaw in that plan and I see it and a whole lot of the rest of us see it but did Angelo? I don't think he did. I think he believed he'd provided adequate depth and talent everywhere and it almost worked until the injury to Cutler proved him wrong. In my book JA was either an arrogant fool or he just didn't have a handle on reality and risk management. He would have been more than willing to play 2011 without Matt Forte if that's what it came down to because he believed he could win big without him.
It's like I said about the plea bargain. Forte has no leverage if JA believes he can win without him anymore than a prosecutor does when he has a weak case and the accused and his attorney know it. If you don't think he can get a conviction you don't take his deal but if he can instill the slightest amount of fear and doubt in you well then maybe you do.
No matter what the perception Matt Forte has always been playing the weaker hand and you can't bluff someone who won't be bluffed. JA refused to be bluffed because he thought he had a good enough hand to win with. Take that away and instill some fear in him that he couldn't win without Forte and it changes his perception which is really what we're talking about.
Now the Bears gave strengthened their hand even more all across the offensive board and Matt has no leverage whatsoever. They can play without him and they can certainly win without him. So my perception is he will eventually either sign his tender and show up to play or he'll come down from where he at and toss back a counter offer close enough that the Bears will finally say ok, let's get this thing done. What he won't do is holdout once the season starts and I doubt he'll even miss all of the preseason.