Everything is relative in NFL contract negotiations, so the most realistic way to assess the Chicago Bears' talks with tailback Matt Forte is that they've ended -- until they start up again. Any other dramatic conclusion would be total speculation.
As you might have heard, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a radio interview Monday night that the sides have agreed to "focus on the season." Nothing would stop either side from re-starting negotiations, of course, and in truth the Bears should be motivated to use some of their $19 million salary-cap surplus in 2011 on Forte's next deal, sparing heavier cap hits in future seasons.
Here's what Angelo said, courtesy of the Bears' website: "We've spent a lot of time trying to work out an extension with Matt and his agent did as much work as he could do. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to come to an agreement at this point so we've decided that we're just going to focus on the season. That's something we talked about when we went into the negotiations. We were hopeful. Not saying the door is shut. But right now our focus is going to be on the season."
Forte is in the final season of the four-year rookie contract he signed in 2008. Talks for an extension have been going on for most of the summer, but Angelo said last month that at some point he would need to draw a "line in the sand" and table negotiations. The market for running backs changed last week when the Tennessee Titans signed holdout tailback Chris Johnson to an extension that included $30 million in guaranteed money. According to ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright, the Bears have offered less than half of that total.
Forte won't come close to Johnson's deal, but should he get less than half of his guarantees? I'm guessing that's one of the sticking points in these talks.
Regardless, I wouldn't get too worried about Forte's future with the team. More often than not, these things work themselves out. There just isn't likely to be a resolution soon. As always, stay tuned.