New Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery declined to address the topic in any detail at his introductory press conference when he was asked about applying the franchise tag to running back Matt Forte.

But if the Bears are unable to work out a long-term extension for Forte before the March 5 deadline, you can bet Forte will be tagged.

It will cost $7.7 million to franchise tag running backs this season, and that isn’t going to be a prohibitive number for the Bears, who project to have more than $20 million in cap room. It’s about the budget and how much they are willing to pay Forte for a multi-year deal.

Forte has gotten better each season he has been in the league. The second-round draft pick from Tulane in 2008 made the Pro Bowl this past season despite missing the final four games with a sprained MCL. He was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage at the time of the injury, and finished the season averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

Forte made 60 consecutive starts before the knee injury Dec. 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, so he’s been a durable performer. The question is can the team and Forte find common ground for a contract?

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune