Bears appear to have leverage in money battle with Forte

Here are the primary reasons Forte does not have new paper:

-- The franchise tag: From a financial perspective, it might make more sense for the Bears to franchise Forte in 2012 at $7.7 million and in 2013 at $9.24 million (120 percent of the 2012 franchise number) than it does to sign him to a five- or six-year deal worth say, an average of $9 million per year with more than $20 million guaranteed.

After two years of using the tag, the Bears could decide to part ways with Forte, who will be 28 then, or they could try to sign him to a longer contract at that point. He would be a free agent without strings.

But from a locker room perspective, it probably makes more sense to reward a loyal soldier now.

-- Bears missed window of opportunity: The time to sign Forte was last offseason, but the Bears probably undervalued him then. It is believed they offered him a little more than $6 million per year.

Since that time, Forte's price has gone up in part because he had a career year and because the deals of Williams, Foster and McCoy, among others, have driven up the market.

If the Bears had offered $7.5 per year last summer, it's possible Forte would be under contract now.

-- Value of the position: Teams value running backs differently. Some believe they are fairly interchangeable and replaceable, even if they are gifted, and that the running game is more about mentality than ability. Some don't trust running backs past their 29th birthday, given the history of short careers.

"Every team has a different scheme, style, a different home field and value for the position and subsequently the individual," said a front office man who negotiates contracts for his team.

The franchise of Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, George McAfee, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, oddly enough, apparently does not value running backs as much as some franchises.

Forte and Bakari were hoping the general manager changeover from Jerry Angelo to Phil Emery would change this. But given the continued stalemate, it appears little has changed in how the Bears view Forte's value.

Finding middle ground

What has become clear: Forte seemingly is not going to get all he wants from the Bears. And if they get Forte to sign a long-term deal, they likely are going to have to give more than they think he's worth.

I asked a respected player agent what he thought a fair deal for Forte would be. He said he would agree to a five-year contract with an average per year of $8 million, a three-year average per year of $8.5 million and $19.5 million in guarantees.

The team negotiator gave me similar numbers when asked for a fair contract for Forte, but indicated he would be willing to go as high as $8.5 million on the average per year with $20 million guaranteed. That would put the total potential value at $42.5 million.

It is believed Bakari was asking for $8.5 per year before the McCoy deal. That may be more than the Bears are willing to pay.

In the absence of a mutual compromise, the franchise tag may have to do.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei
CHICAGO