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Report: Matt Forte, Bears are 'extremely close' to a long-term deal

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Forte wants 'market value' ... and might just get it. (US PRESSWIRE)

In recent days, running back Matt Forte sounded cautiously optimistic that he and the Bears could come to terms on a long-term contract. The team franchised him this spring and the former second-round pick has made it clear from the beginning that he wanted something more than a one-year deal.

Now with the Monday 4 p.m. ET deadline looming, NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reports that the two sides are "extremely close" to a multi-year contract. If the negotiations prove fruitful, Forte would join Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Raiders safety Tyvon Branch as franchise players to land new deals this weekend.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora has noted previously that there may not be much progress elsewhere around the league, which means that Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and Cliff Avril aren't likely to secure new deals before Monday's deadline.

In June, Forte admitted that the process had "left some scars" but also understood his precarious negotiating position. "I don't think I really have a choice, do I?" he said at the time regarding his presence at training camp. "Yeah, I'll be here."

Forte has also said that he's looking for "market value," pointing to the five-year, $40-something-million deals signed this offseason by the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Texans' Arian Foster. Whether the Bears are willing to fork over that kind of money to a back who hasn't put up McCoy or Foster type numbers remains to be seen (we've written about this before).

Comparisons aside, the Bears' offense is clearly better with Forte in the backfield. And now that offensive coordinator Mike Martz has been replaced by Mike Tice, there's a chance for more flexibility in a previously rigid scheme. Brandon Marshall has been reunited with Jay Cutler, and Forte will have his workload lessened by the addition of Michael Bush (who was also signed as insurance against Forte no-showing to begin the year), all of which should make the Bears' offense better in 2012.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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