It took some time, but the Bears finally took care of their franchise back. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)

Matt Forte spent the first half of the 2011 season shredding opposing defenses and chirping about wanting a new contract.

But the sprained medial collateral ligament he suffered in early December derailed what could have been a career year and led the Chicago Bears to slap their starting running back with the franchise tag.

Hours before the 4 p.m. deadline for Forte and and the Bears to reach a long-term deal, however, it appears Forte finally has his pay-day.

The 26-year-old Pro Bowl tailback has agreed to a four-year contract worth around $32 million, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

If Forte had failed to secure a deal before Monday’s deadline, he would have been forced to play under the $7.749 million tender offered by the Bears or sit out.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the deal includes $18 million guaranteed. That number eclipses the offer the Bears reportedly gave Forte before the 2011 season, which included about $15 million guaranteed.

The Bears added free agent running back Michael Bush in April to bolster their backfield, but the move only added to Forte’s frustration over the tenuous contract negotiations. Forte made $555,000 last season on the final year of his rookie contract.

The move comes three days after the New Orleans Saints agreed to a record-breaking contract extension with quarterback Drew Brees, to whom they had also applied the franchise tag.

Forte, who has not taken part in any team activities this offseason, rushed for 997 yards on 203 carries over 12 games and caught 52 passes for 490 yards. His 1,497 all-purpose yards placed him eighth in the NFL among non-kickoff and punt returners.

Chicago was 7-4 when Forte went down, and went just 1-4 the rest of the way, missing the playoffs on year after reaching the NFC championship game.


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