Matt Forte, Ray Rice Get Long-Term Contracts Before NFL Deadline

Chicago Bears Running Back Matt Forte
Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears runs against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field in Chicago on Nov. 20, 2011. Photographer: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Pro Bowl running backs Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens received new contracts ahead of the National Football League’s deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals.

Forte and the Bears agreed yesterday on a four-year contract, while Rice and the Ravens came to terms on a five-year deal, the teams said without disclosing financial terms. Forte’s contract is worth about $32 million and Rice’s is for $40 million, according to ESPN.

Both Forte and Rice were assigned their club’s franchise tag during the offseason. Had either running back not reached a long-term deal by yesterday, the NFL’s deadline for franchise-tagged players, his only option for playing this season would have been under a $7.75 million one-year deal.

“I’m proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years,” Forte said on the Bears’ website. “I’m glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship.”

Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract with the New England Patriots yesterday, said, citing an unidentified person familiar with the negotiations. As the Patriots’ designated franchise player, Welker will earn a guaranteed $9.5 million in 2012. Welker, who caught 122 passes for a career-high 1,569 yards last season, would become a free agent after next season if the Patriots don’t use their franchise player tag on him again.

Pro Bowler

Forte, a Pro Bowl selection in 2011, has spent his four-year career with the Bears. Last season he averaged a career-high 83.1 yards rushing per game before missing the final four games of the season with a sprained knee ligament.

The 26-year-old is the only player in NFL history to have at least 900 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons, according to the Bears.

Rice, 25, was drafted by the Ravens in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. A Pro Bowl selection in 2009 and 2011, he’s rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last three seasons.

“Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and that includes helping us get to two AFC Championship games,” Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said in an e-mailed statement. “His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding.”

Scobee Signs

Elsewhere around the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to a new long-term deal with kicker Josh Scobee, who received the team’s franchise tag this offseason. The four-year deal is worth around $14 million, according to ESPN.

Had Scobee and the Jaguars been unable to agree by the deadline, he would have had to sit out the 2012 season or play under a one-year, $2.9 million deal.

The Oakland Raiders agreed to a four-year, $26.6 million contract with their designated franchise player, safety Tyvon Branch, ESPN said.

Among the designated franchise players who failed to sign long-term deals were Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, said.

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