Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jul 2012

Forte, Rice Reach Contact Agreements

As reported by Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Bears have agreed to terms with running back Matt Forte on a four-year deal in the hours before today's deadline for multi-year deals for franchise players. No details yet, but Adam Schefter indicated the deal is for about $8 million a year.

UPDATE 4pm EDT: And... Ray Rice has now agreed to a new contact as well, five years at $40 million, so essentially the same as Forte but with one additional season. Of course, once we know the details, the bonuses, the structure, etc. there will be other differences between the two deals.

Posted by: Tom Gower on 16 Jul 2012

36 comments, Last at 19 Jul 2012, 12:40pm by chemical burn


by Slaymont Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 1:03pm

Jensen said on the radio that one of the hangups was that the Bears wanted a 5 or 6 year deal, but Forte only wanted 4, with the idea that he could sign another contract when hits 30.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 1:16pm

This seems... odd.

The tender this year, to my knowledge, was less than $8 million. The Bears had all the leverage here, and Forte got what seems to be a hell of a deal.

I mean, the 2012 Bears are a better team with Matt Forte as their #1 back. But is the same true for the 2013-2015 teams?

by tuluse :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 1:38pm

I think the franchise tag was 7.25.

I like the shortness of the deal, that means the Bears can get out of it if Forte's performance starts falling off.

I don't like the per year numbers, but they could easily have hid fake money so I'd have to see more details before I decide.

Phil Emery is clearly not afraid to pull the trigger once he makes a decision. I was always sympathetic to Angelo's slow and steady methodology, but I must admit this is a refreshing change of pace.

by Marko :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 1:46pm

I don't think it's odd at all. First of all, we still don't know how much of this is guaranteed. That is the most important figure.

If the Bears would have franchised him this year and then franchised him next year, the amount over those two seasons would have been well more than $8 million per season. This deal locks him up for 4 years, the Bears don't appear to have overpaid, and they will have the franchise tag available for use next year on someone else if necessary. And the fact that they took care of Forte will smooth things over in the locker room to the extent that there are some bad feelings brewing in the locker room over a key player not getting paid.

I think it's win-win for Forte and the Bears. Both sides ended up compromising to reach a deal that is fair. This is the essence of a good deal.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:07pm

Good point on next year's franchise figure.

And you're absolutely right that the guaranteed money is what's important here. Being surprised was simply my first reaction.

by snoopy369 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:59pm
by tuluse :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:09pm

If the 18 million was all in a signing bonus, this means the Bears can cut him after 2 years with only a 1 million dollar cap hit (-8 million for cutting him, +9 million amortization left).

by Slaymont Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 1:42pm

Forte would have made about $17m if he had been tagged next year as well, which averages out to $8.5m, so I'm imagine that was part of the negotiation.

by Kal :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:53pm

About god damn time.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:23pm

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be critical of the teams, but if so, then I think it's way off.

The Bears and Ravens had all the leverage here. There was very little incentive for them to push hard for long-term deals. Neither Forte nor Rice could afford to sit out the season (or even hold out), since that would likely kill their future values.

Towards the end, I was kind of hoping the Bears wouldn't reach a deal with Forte, and just let him play this one more year and let him walk. I'm OK (albeit not enthusiastic) with the deal, though (at least what's been reported so far).

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:21pm

You could ask Joe Banner about how well always toeing the leverage argument works long-term.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:25pm

I'm not sure what you're referring to exactly. I don't recall the Eagles missing out on someone due to a similar thing.

Regardless, the Bears, at least, signed a very capable second option in Michael Bush.

by mjb :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 10:47am

Players the Eagles "missed out" on due to Joe Banner using his "leverage":
Jeremiah Trotter, 2001
Duce Staley, 2003
Corey Simon, 2004
Terrell Owens, 2005

by Dean :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 10:44am

All of whom did little to nothing afterwards leaving town in their contract squabbles.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 6:19am

Both a hair cheaper than Foster (5 years, $43.5m, $30m over the first 3 years). All three players are excellent all round backs of around the same age, and it seems that three fairly well-run franchises have come to the conclusion that their values are a. quite similar and b. quite high.

Count me firmly among those who believe that running back fungibility is overstated and that durable backs who excel as both runners and receivers while being at least adequate blockers are still worth serious money.

McCoy will presumably be the next such player in line; I suspect he may get over-paid (not necessarily by the Eagles), because the presence of Vick has probably enabled him to be significantly more productive than he would be otherwise.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 7:30am

The Eagles already resigned McCoy, and yeah he got paid - overpaid if you think Vick adds a yard per carry to his running backs. I suppose production is production, especially when still under 25.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:29am

How the hell did I miss/forget that?

Ok, so McCoy got a touch more than Foster, and $1m/year more than the others, but with considerably more salary in the final two years (not funny money, but the other contracts involve really quite large paycuts in the final season or two). This presumably reflects the fact that he's a couple of years younger.

Don't get me wrong, I like McCoy as a player (and he's been a mainstay for my fantasy team for the last two years) but he's the one of the four whose chances of justifying the contract I'd be least confident in, because Vick is only likely to get worse and less healthy from here on out, and Trent Edwards is neither going to force safeties out of the box with his arm nor wrong-foot defenses with the threat of a scramble.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:57am

Trent Edwards isn't even going to make the team. Also, McCoy's numbers stayed steady last year with the back-ups QB's playing. I suppose you could argue that defenses were equally focused on stopping Vince "-8.6% DVOA/3 DYAR" Young as they were Mike "30.3% DVOA/140 DYAR" Vick but I'm not sure you'd find many folks agreeing with you.

If you want to sell high on McCoy, do it because he just lost all of his running lanes behind the best LT in the NFL. But considering Forte was the 36th most productive back in the NFL according to DYAR and the 40th most effecient by DVOA, I'm not sure he's even good NOW, let alone will be able to reach the level of quality of even a reduced-effectiveness McCoy at some point in the future. Sure, I know he was banged up in 2011, but so was McCoy who also missed time due to injury. (Not as much as Forte, but I'm not sure that McCoy missing 2 and a half more games would have closed the 1st in the league versus 36th in the league gap.)

by Jimmy :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:30pm

Forte's DVOA sucks because the Bears run game was very boom and bust last year. A lot of this is down to Martz's refusal to audible out of running into the teeth of a stacked box. DVOA hates boom and bust.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:46am

Young's rushing DVOA and DYAR were both still significantly better than Tebow's, and I don't think anyone is seriously denying that Tebow boosted McGahee's production as compared to Orton. Frankly, Young and Tebow's poor DVOA's (as compared to, for example, Flacco's excellent 19.3% or Brady's 10.9%) seem to indicate pretty clearly that defenses were indeed focusing on them.

In short, yes, I believe that even a bad running quarterback has a major positive effect on RB production, and that Forte's poor advanced rushing metrics are the product of his environment (particularly his lousy offensive line), not a lack of ability as a runner.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 2:57pm

Even if McCoy is half as good as his advanced stats make him out to be and Forte twice as good, Forte's numbers still can't compete with McCoy. There is no standard by which Forte has EARNED a comparison to McCoy. In fact, Forte reeks of the kind of player that the Bears will regret having money tied up in two years from now. He could be replaced by a half dozen BACK-UP rb's in the league like Gerhart, C.J. Spiller, Ingram and Jackie Battle with no drop-off in value and most likely increased production. None of those guys are even worth considering as a replacement to McCoy.

All of the best excuses for Forte's genuinely terrible numbers - he was banged up, he played with a bad QB for a big chunk of the season etc. - apply to McCoy as well. Sure, playing with Young (-21.7% DVOA) and Mike Kafka (-38.0% DVOA) for 4 and a half or so games isn't as bad as playing 4 and a half or so games with Caleb Hanie (-78.7% DVOA), but then again McCoy's numbers were the best in the league, not floating down around folks who shouldn't even be starters. If the issue were McCoy was the 25 best RB in the league by DYAR and Forte were the 38th (which he was) then there might be some argument about which player is actually better. But there's not. Because McCoy was the best in the league... by a huge margin. The #2 guy has 201 DYAR to McCoy's 304.

I agree that McCoy benefited from having a running QB. But let's look at your MacGahee example: he had less than half the DYAR production of McCoy and less a third of the DVOA efficiency. Her's not comparable to McCoy - he's much, much worse. And he's also more than 5 times as productive as Forte and roughly twice as effective. Get this "Forte over McCoy" nonsense out of here. Forte can't compare to McCoy no matter how many excuses you come up with for him.

(And I won't even get into the fact that MacGahee's 2009 season in Baltimore was equally productive to his 2011 season - so even your premise that MacGahee's numbers got a bump from Tebow is wrong. He was 3rd in DVOA in 2009 playing with Flacco - who gets cited up-thread as a QB who doesn't boost an RB's numbers!)

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 4:23pm

I don't Forte is as good as McCoy and I think they're contracts show that.

I do think he's much better than you're giving him credit for.

1) Running QBs make RBs better. FO has done research to show this is true. It doesn't really matter if they are good or not. Vince Young is still a running QB.

2) The Eagles fielded a top 10 offensive line, the Bears a bottom 5 one.

3) Forte has started 60 of 64 possible games in his career, McCoy has started 32 of 48. This shows more durability than McCoy has. And Forte averages 3 more carries per game.

4) Toby Gerhart, Jackie Battle? I feel like I'm being trolled. Gerhart is a change of pace back and nothing more. If he was featured full time his stats would look much worse. Jackie Battle had some of the worst receiving of any RB, which is where a good amount of Forte's value comes from.

5) Forte is the best blocking back I've seen on the Bears since 2001, and Thomas Jones was no slouch either. Considering the state of the Bears line this is more valuable than it might be on other teams.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:32pm

I have no real opinions on Forte's worth. I think the suggestion above that he's better than McCoy is insane. The best way to prove any assertion is insane is by showing the craziest elements. There are huge disparities between McCoy and Forte's production in 2011 - I pointed them out. I could care less one way or the other about Forte.

1) This is true and I agree. I never disputed it - only the extent to which McCoy's success can be attributed to it.

2) On what planet is that true? Or do you disagree with the consensus last year that the Eagles's o-line was the source of a huge amount of problems? All year I had to hear about how terrible they were and now it is presented to me as common knowledge they were among the best in the league? Interesting perspective.

3) Well.. he wasn't intended to be the starter his rookie year, so I'm not sure how you are arriving at this number. He certainly hasn't missed a full season's worth of games due to injury and the nearest I can tell is that he's missed the equivalent of 4 games since being named the starter - 32 of 36. Still not as durable as Forte, but nothing like you're making it out to be.

4) Forte's value in terms of DVOA/DYAR was 46 DYAR (29th in the league) and -5.7% DVOA (35th in the league.) I think of McCoy as being way too much bust to go with his occasional boom in the passing game and his numbers are significantly better than that. It makes me sad that you're seeing that as being valuable in the passing game.

I compare him to back-ups who received at least 100 carries and out-performed or performed comparably to the starter in front of them. I genuinely don't think Forte is so much more valuable than the most effective back-up RB's in the league. And guys like Battle and Gerhart are able to get tough yards in stacked boxes, which was in response to one of the excuses being made for Forte: he's all alone out there, so teams can focus on him and he has to carry the team when Cutler's out. Players able to consistently able to be effective in those types of circumstances would be more valuable to the Bears than a purportedly "boom or bust" like Forte (although the evidence suggests he's a bust-and-bust player.) If the Bears offense is as anemic as you suggest (and the Vikings and Chiefs in 2011 were) then tough-running 4 yards and a cloud of dust guys would be worth a lot to them.

5. Sounds good - and McCoy certainly ain't no Westbrook when it comes to blitz pick-up.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:43pm

Well I have (probably too) high hopes for the Bears offense this year.

I expect the line getting healthy and Tice taking complete control will lead to line that could be ranked somewhere between 16 and 20 after being bottom 5 the last two years. I expect Cutler's "light coming on" performance last year will continue. I expect Brandon Marshall to be better than Johnny Knox. With all these things added together I would be stunned if you don't see Forte's rushing DVOA hit at least 10%.

As for some other comments, McCoy hasn't had a chance to prove himself as durable as Forte who has started all but 4 games he could. That's just what's happened so far. This could obviously change in the future, but Forte has proven himself to be pretty durable.

There is commenter around here (who's alias alludes me right now) who thinks the Eagles offensive line was actually quite good and Vick/Young made it look bad. I respect his opinion so that's what I based my comment on. I haven't seen enough of the Eagles line to make an intelligent comment myself.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:55pm

Yeah, like most people, I think the Bears were really shaping up to be a contender last year before the Cutler injury and I honestly don't think Forte is not a legit starter or anything (if he ended up being a Top 12 back, I wouldn't be so shocked.) If Cutler continues on his upward arc and the WR's provide him some decent help, I can totally see Forte being a prime beneficiary.

McCoy doesn't seem durable, but he's not "lose an entire season" injury-prone. He seem to have that Westbrook curse of being a little beat up all year, but only missing a game or two total.

(Truth be told, I actually think Eagles' the line was pretty darn good. The Peters, Mathis, Kelce side was as good as any I saw play last year. The other side wasn't bad and Vick definitely didn't help things. I'm worried what will happen with McCoy now that he doesn't he Peters clearing the DE and then swiftly knocking down the LB on every play. The most remarkable thing I saw last year was Peters release his DE away from the play, blow through an LB and then get out ahead of the runner to clobber the safety for a 29 yard TD... on a WR screen. Enough people think they were terrible, though, that I hate to just McCoy's credit away to them. McCoy certainly LOVED Hoawrd Mudd, though, and would run high-five him after every big running play.)

by tuluse :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 10:29am

Add me to those who think that running back fungibility is overstated around these parts.

I do think for years that NFL GMs were valuing running backs incorrectly by placing value on the wrong parts of their skills, but that is different from running backs being easily replaceable.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:21pm

Typical backs are easily replaceable.

Guys who can block and catch passes who play running back, aren't.

by koma (not verified) :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 11:37am

Such as UDFA Arian Foster?

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 11:39am

I guess QBs are fungable too since 6th round pick Tom Brady is headed for the HoF.

by koma (not verified) :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:17pm

I suppose I didn't provide many examples (and this may be completely irrelevant-draft position may have more to do with how easy it is to evaluate talent than fungibility). Still, let's take a look at last year's top 10 QBs by DYAR and where they were drafted (or weren't):
Brees- 32nd overall
Rodgers- 24th overall
Brady- 199th overall
Romo- UDFA
Stafford- 1st overall
Ryan- 3rd overall
Rivers- 4th overall
Manning- 1st overall
Roethlisberger- 11th overall
Schaub- 90th overall

Now the top 10 receiving RBs by DYAR:
Sproles- 130th overall
Rice- 55th overall
Bush- 100th overall
Mathews- 12th overall
Foster- UDFA
Clay- 174th overall
Thomas- UDFA
Stewart- 13th overall
F. Jackson- UDFA
Gerhart- 51st overall
It's a pretty small sample size, but that's also a very stark contrast.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:37pm

This is all true.

This is why Forte is making 8 million a year instead of 12 million like Mark Sanchez.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:45pm

I agree with your basic premise, but I would point out that receiving RB's tend to be change of pace/3rd down back kind of guys. Sproles, Gerhart, M. Bush and Clay were utilized as change of pace guys behind Thomas, Peterson, McFadden and R. Bush - they've turned out to be excellent role-players, but they clearly were brought in to be role-players and not 1st round every down kind of guys. Even Fred Jackson was initially brought in as a back-up and Buffalo (insanely) refuses on a yearly basis to commit to him as their RB of the future. What I'm saying is that these guys don't have to shoulder their team's workload in any meaningful way and it's not clear what their value would be if they were the starters, if they would be able to retain their receiving value in that context - they're mainly guys brought in with the idea that they'll do what they have done and the value for that skill-set has always been a mid-round pick at best.

Arian Foster and Matthews are the exceptions as guys who are specifically employed as starters for their teams and their role conceptualized as "the man." Sure, one if an UDFA, but the other went 12th overall.

The outlier is Pierre Thomas, who basically demonstrates how amazing the Saints passing attack is.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:40pm

Also, does anybody know if FO has done any kind of study on running back fungibility?

by rageon :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:21pm

When discussing running back fungibility, it's just easier to ignore every running back associated in any with Shannahan/Kubiak/Dennison.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 8:24am

Disagree. There's a world of difference between Davis, Portis, Foster and Tate on the one hand and Bell, Bell, Droughns, Dayne, Moats, Brown and the rest on the other. Compare 2009 Foster (the two games he played) to Slaton, Moats and Brown's production in the same circumstances. The Mountain Coast offense may be good at getting adequate production out of non-entities, but it still benefits hugely from having a really good player.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:37pm

Yeah - and it's also a case where advanced stats really help out because some of those lesser backs put up respectable 1,200 yard seasons with horrible DVOA. (Or at least, DVOA that can't compare to somebody like Portis.)