Failing a long-term contract extension in the offseason, the Bears will slap the dreaded "franchise" tag on Forte, effectively keeping him from leaving. Because of a new formula set in last summer's collective bargaining agreement, the franchise number for running backs will be about $7.8 million this year, compared with $9.6 million in 2011.
If Forte signs with another team, that team must give the Bears two first-round draft picks. It's highly unlikely any team would give up that much in compensation, so Forte will be stuck in Chicago.
With a new general manager coming soon, Forte might have better luck getting the multiyear deal he's seeking, including $20 million in guaranteed money. The Bears' top offer included about $14 in guaranteed money.
Count on him getting franchised and holding out, at least through training camp.
--When wide receiver Roy Williams was brought in last year on a one-year deal, then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz predicted he might catch 70 passes. He probably did -- if you count practices. In game, Williams caught just 37 passes, although he finished strong with 10 catches for 141 yards in the final two games.
Williams signed last year for $2.46 million, and he certainly won't get any more than that from the Bears this time around.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs just like this football team," Williams said. "But just coming off the street, I think I played OK. I think these last two or three ballgames have just picked up, and I think my arrow is going up for this football team, and I just want to try to continue to help us win."
--Corey Graham made the Pro Bowl as a special teams coverage guy, but he wants a bigger role on defense, and he showed this season that he might deserve it. Filling in at nickel when D.J. Moore was injured, Graham had interceptions in three straight games in November. If the Bears won't at least give him a chance to win a regular job, he could bolt as an unrestricted free agent.
"It's very important," the five-year veteran said of playing time. "Obviously, when you're in this league, you want to play on defense. You want to play as much as possible. Hopefully I get a chance to play somewhere. I'm going to weigh my options and just see what happens."
In 2011, Tim Jennings started 15 games at cornerback and Zack Bowman one opposite Charles Tillman. Both Jennings and Bowman are free agents, and both were benched at one point during the season for ineffective play, so the Bears could offer Graham a shot at the job.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's not up to me. Either one of two things, I get franchised or I don't." -- Bears running back Matt Forte.
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