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Bears sign Bush to compliment Forte

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 9:38 p.m. CST

(MCT) — On their third try the Bears finally may have gotten a running back who will complement Matt Forte.

But the Pro Bowl running back initially didn't take it as a compliment Thursday when Michael Bush agreed to terms on a four-year, $14 million contract with half the amount guaranteed.

"There are only so many times a man who has done everything he has been asked to do can be disrespected!" Forte tweeted. "Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last."

Forte has been trolling for a new contract and negotiations over nearly a year haven't produced results, even with a change in general managers.

GM Phil Emery has reiterated the team's goal is to sign Forte to a multi-year deal and the Bears have secured him for 2012 with the franchise tag that will guarantee him $7.742 million if he signs the tender. The chance that he might hold out of the regular season seems slim, especially considering one week's pay this season will equal 10 from 2011.

Bush, 27, arrives from the Raiders as a durable performer who can provide insurance in the event a contract never materializes for Forte. He also has a proven track record whereas the past two backups appeared to be on the downside of their careers. Chester Taylor earned a whopping $7 million as a free-agent failure in 2010. Marion Barber received $2.5 million last season when critical errors he made against the Chiefs and Broncos led directly to defeats.

Barber remains under contract with a base salary of $1.9 million. The decision the Bears have to make is do they let him potentially earn a $100,000 workout bonus and keep him in the event of injuries, or cut him now? Releasing Barber, who was hampered with calf injuries in 2011, would create $2 million in salary cap savings. Kahlil Bell, who has been tendered as a restricted free agent, is in the mix too.

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Bush was a backup for the Raiders until injury to Darren McFadden allowed him to start nine games last season and rush for a career-high 977 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 37 passes for 418 yards, so he has the kind of versatility the Bears covet.

"I've been in this role for a while now," Bush said. "I'm one of those guys who always has been patient waiting for my turn. There are enough carries to go around. I'm not too much stuck on how many carries I'm going to get."

While Bush's presence provides an element of insurance, the Bears want to remain committed to the run. The newcomer noted how the Jaguars nearly had two 1,000-yard rushers in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew in 2006 when offensive coordinator Mike Tice was a member of the staff in Jacksonville. So, signing Bush and ongoing contract negotiations with Forte really might be unrelated events. It's not like Emery, who said last week talks are ongoing for Forte, has changed his mind.

Bush said he has not spoken to Forte and never has met him. That doesn't mean he can't understand what his new teammate is going through.

"I can understand where the guy's coming from," he said. "Everything they've asked, he has done. As a player myself, I've been through an injury. We drafted Darren McFadden (fourth overall in 2008) when I was with the Raiders. It's just one of those things where you want to be rewarded for your success. I understand, but that has nothing to do with me. I'm going to help him become a better player and he's going to push me as well. It will be great working with him."

Four hours later, Forte amended his earlier tweet: "For the record I'm not mad at the signing of another running back. This is 4th time that's happened. I embrace competition as well as help. But as for not taking care of ur own and undervaluing a player under his market value is another story!"

There's no question the Bears have spent an inordinate amount on backup running backs recently. But Bush just might stick around for a while.

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