Free Agency Notes: Forte, Mack, Norman

Last night, we heard Matt Forte was aiming at a Bears return. But the running back’s sense of pragmatism’s also kicking in, with the eight-year veteran admitting he’s unsure if the Bears will make him an offer, according to an Associated Press report.

I mean, I want to return,” Forte told media. “But if you’re saying am I hopeful that I do return? There’s not much to hope for right now because like I’ve said, I talked to (general manager Ryan Pace) earlier and they haven’t said anything back. So there’s nothing really to hope for.”

Forte envisioned the Bears breaking their silence regarding his future in Chicago after his strong start. But after a midseason knee injury, the 30-year-old runner is on pace for his worst statistical season.

Here’s some more news from around the league on Christmas Eve.

  • Alex Mack will opt out of his unique Browns deal and seek to become the first center to earn $9MM+ per season,’s Joel Corry tweets. That price seems logical for Mack, with the salary cap rising next season. Mike Pouncey and Rodney Hudson hover at $8.9MM+ per season after signing their deals this spring.
  • Yahoo’s Charles Robinson categorizes the upcoming free agent class and placed Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins in a high-risk sector, given the quarterbacks’ high-variance futures. Robinson anticipates the Broncos paying the fourth-year quarterback, however. Robinson also places Eric Berry and Olivier Vernon in his “bank-breakers” category, given their impressive contract-year showings. In terms of unlikely paydays, the Yahoo reporter lists Broncos defensive ends Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, along with Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, as those who will surprise with their second contracts.
  • The Panthers‘ locking up Josh Norman will create a logjam atop their roster, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap and the Sporting News writes. Should Norman re-sign, Carolina will have five players making more than $9MM next season as of now prior to any releases or restructuring. Fitzgerald expects Norman to push to become the NFL’s highest-paid corner and potentially aim for a $16MM-per-year accord. Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman are the league’s only $14MM-per-year corners. No. 1 on Pro Football Focus’ metrics almost all season long, Norman’s dropped to 12th, however.
  • In an expansive analysis of players’ actual 2015 earnings, Corry concludes Philip Rivers was this year’s highest-paid player when factoring in deferrals and state taxes. Eli Manning and Marcell Dareus, with New York’s sub-9% state income tax rate, rank second and third behind Rivers’ $15.39MM post-taxes total.
  • Fitzgerald expects a substantial amount of high-profile performers being released or forced to restructure their contracts this offseason due to the failure to justify their salaries. In being a top-tier wage-earner at their position, the OTC analyst lists 43 players who are signed to upper-echelon contracts but didn’t make either the Pro Bowl or Pro Football Focus’ Pro Bowl team. DeMarco Murray, Demaryius Thomas, Mario Williams and Joe Haden are among the numerous recognizable names on Fitzgerald’s list of underwhelming performances-per-contract value.


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