We've known the market for the NFL's top running backs for some time. The Minnesota Vikings guaranteed Adrian Peterson $36 million as part of a seven-year deal last summer, and the Tennessee Titans awarded Chris Johnson $30 million in a six-year extension.
Now we have a decent idea of how NFL teams value the next tier of running backs. The Seattle Seahawks signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year deal Sunday night that includes $17 or $18 million in guarantees, and hours later the Houston Texans agreed on a five-year deal with Arian Foster. Terms of that deal haven't been reported yet, but it's reasonable to assume it falls between Lynch's deal and the five-year contract the Carolina Panthers gave DeAngelo Williams last summer; Williams' deal included $21 million in guarantees.
If a dispute remains, it's this: What tier does Forte belong in? Did Forte's multi-faceted performance in 2011, in which he amassed 1,487 all-purpose yards in 12 games, make him one of the NFL's top backs? Or should he be paid closer to the range of Williams, Lynch and/or Foster?
The market has formed well enough for the sides to reach a long-term agreement, which would allow the Bears to rescind the franchise tag. But that's only if they can agree on Forte's standing among his peers. As always, your thoughts are welcome.