In all likelihood, the Chicago Bears will be without franchised running back Matt Forte for most, if not all of their off-season workout program, which gets underway on Monday, April 16. Forte is unlikely to sign the tender, multi-year extension or a waiver that would allow him to participate in the workouts.
One returning running back who will be present is restricted free agent Kahlil Bell, who started three of 12 games in 2011, carrying the ball 79 times for 337 yards and adding 19 receptions for 133 yards and his first NFL touchdown as a receiver out of the backfield while playing nearly a quarter of the Bears' offensive snaps.
The 6-foot, 219-pound Bell was tendered at the "Right of First Refusal" level, which carries a base salary of $1.26 million and no draft choice compensation if he were to sign an offer sheet that the Bears decline to match. Bell does not plan on signing the tender until after April 20, the deadline to sign an offer sheet with another club, but will sign an "off-season workout agreement" that will protect him in case of an injury, Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports.
"I’m looking forward to the start of this season, and I’m not worried about my contract situation," Bell said. "That will play out the way it plays out."
Bell will need to compete for touches in 2012 with Michael Bush, a 2007 fourth round pick of the Oakland Raiders who signed a four-year, $14 million contract with the Bears on March 27 that contained $6 million in fully guaranteed money.