BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- While the Chicago Bears work to prevent running back Matt Forte from hitting the free agent market in 2012, it appears the club won't be doing the same for safety Chris Harris, who's set to go into the final year of a two-year contract signed last April.
The Bears were reportedly expected to extend a contract proposal to Harris by the end of the month. But neither Harris nor his agent, Albert Elias, has engaged in any discussions with the club.
In fact, Elias plans to conduct business with the expectation that Harris will go into free agency in 2012.
"We'd love to remain with the Bears and would love to stay there," Elias said. "But there's not been any talk about an extension. It's always been my process and plan that if a team is not offering a contract in a contract year before the start of season, normally that means we're going into free agency."
That's not a route Harris likely wants to go after taking approximately a 50-percent pay cut in 2011 to re-join the Bears, which originally drafted him in 2005 with a sixth-round pick, after three years with the Carolina Panthers. Harris said he hadn't heard from the Bears or his agent about a potential extension, adding that "it would be nice" to be able to remain with the club.
"But I've been so into all this (training camp), I can't even think about all that stuff," Harris said.
Coming off a season in which he tied for the team lead with a career-high five interceptions, in addition to earning All-Pro recognition for the first time, Harris is set to earn approximately $1.1 million in base salary for 2011, making him the 35th-highest paid safety in the NFL.
Obviously his 96 tackles, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries from 2010 serve as an indication that Harris has outperformed the deal he signed after returning to the Bears in a trade from Carolina. Harris didn't receive a signing bonus upon joining the club, but earned $800,000 in base salary in 2010, in addition to receiving roster bonuses of $300,000 and $500,000 the last two years.
In the two years that Harris started for the Bears, the team went to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship game.
Although the sides haven't engaged in any discussions, it doesn't mean the Bears won't reach out to Harris in the next couple of weeks. The unexpected pace of transactions after the lockout, the lightning-quick start of training camp, and negotiations with Forte's representatives could all play roles in why the Bears haven't made contact.
Then again, the team's silence could mean the Bears are prepared to move a different direction after the season. Keep in mind the club used a third-round pick in the 2011 draft to select safety Chris Conte.
"By us not getting a call before the start of the season -- the way I handle things -- is you play the contract out and go into free agency," Elias said.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.