Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears have agreed to a four-year contract, settling the biggest issue hanging over the team.
The Bears confirmed the deal before Monday's deadline. Had the sides not reached an agreement, Forte would have had to play next season for $7.74 million after being hit with the franchise player tag. Or he could have held out.
The Bears did not release terms and agent Adisa Bakari did not return calls seeking comment. The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an unidentified source, reported the deal is worth $32 million with more than $18 million guaranteed.
With Forte signed, the Bears will have all their key pieces in place when training camp starts next week.
''I'm proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years,'' Forte said in a statement released by the Bears. ''I'd like to thank my family, my agent and the Chicago Bears. I've been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week. I'm glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship.''
Forte expressed optimism that a deal would get done in an interview with ESPN last week, and it happened just in time. It ended a long process that began last year when he sought a multiyear extension. Negotiations with then-general manager Jerry Angelo went nowhere, but Forte decided not to hold out.
He wound up having his best season.
Forte made the Pro Bowl for the first time, finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing. He missed the last four games after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4.