Running back Matt Forte informed fans Friday morning that his time in Chicago has come to an end. He posted a photo and a nice message to Bears fans stating that the Bears plan to move forward without him.
Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end. I was informed earlier this week from the GM that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency. I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history. My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I'm excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home. God Bless and Bear Down!
Shortly after, Bears GM Ryan Pace released a statement on the team’s decision and what Forte has meant to the organization.
Pace isn’t wrong about Forte, especially as an all-timer. Forte ranks 2nd in franchise history in both career rushing yards and receptions. Walter Payton is the only player ahead of him in both categories.
This isn’t a shocker though. The writing was on the wall for Forte once he started splitting touches with rookie running back Jeremy Langford. When Langford had an opportunity to start while Forte was injured for 2 games, he proved to be more than capable of being a lead back. Langford totaled 145 rush yards, 179 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in back-to-back wins against the Chargers and Rams. The Bears are also in a position where they need to dedicate resources toward improving other positions on the field, mostly on defense and along the offensive line. So what’s next for both the player and the team?
Forte may be 30 years old, but he’s still a very good, #1 quality back. He can give a team competing for a championship next season an upgrade in not just rushing, but also receiving and blocking as well. Forte’s strength has always been in between the 20s, although he has recorded 10+ touchdowns in 2 of his last 3 seasons. One would think he would be better suited on a team paired with a back who has a nose for the end zone, which makes the New England Patriots very attractive.
Bill Belichick should be licking his lips at the prospect of landing a multi-tooled running back with a history of endurance. The Patriots are already committed to Dion Lewis for 2 more years, but just for $2 million in base salary. They’ll be looking to replace LeGarratte Blount for 1st and 2nd down carries anyway and Forte gives Brady an excellent option in the passing game, where the Patriots thrive. Lewis is proven to have a nose for the end zone and would compliment Forte nicely when they threaten to score.
Other teams to consider as landing spots for Forte:
Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart is already in their backfield, with 3 years left on his deal, but he hasn’t played a full 16 game schedule since 2011 when he wasn’t the starter. Cam Newton almost counts as another running back, but I’m sure the Panthers would rather preserve their MVP franchise quarterback. Forte gives the Panthers the receiving dynamic that Stewart doesn’t really possess.
Denver Broncos – The Broncos are very likely entering the post-Peyton era. Whether Brock Osweiler is the quarterback or someone else, the Broncos offense needs a dependable back who can catch the ball. CJ Anderson bounced back strong down the stretch, Ronnie Hillman was meh, and Forte would be a great upgrade over both for a team wanting to stay competitive after winning the Super Bowl.
Dallas Cowboys – Darren McFadden was okay, but the Cowboys won just 2 games with him as the full-time back in 2015. Tony Romo is going to need someone to keep him alive all season long too if Dallas wants to compete in 2016. That means a running back who can block and catch, and also keep defenses on their heels. McFadden and Forte could make for a formidable duo behind one of the best offensive lines in football as well, which would be reassuring in the event Romo gets broken again.
Meanwhile, Langford should be getting first crack as the Bears starting running back. His game is very similar to Forte’s, as he can run, catch and block, but he also has breakaway speed that Forte always seemed to lack. They also appear to like Ka’Deem Carey for depth after he run much harder in 3rd down spots in his 2nd season with the Bears. A veteran on the cheap or a late draft pick would be valuable to provide competition and stability behind Langford. Keep in mind that John Fox loves using two running backs and giving the ball to the hot hand in games. See DeAngelo Williams & Deshaun Foster/Stewart with Carolina, then Knowshon Moreno & Ronnie Hillman/Montee Ball in Denver.
Free Agent RB options that make sense for Bears:
- Chris Johnson (formerly Cardinals)
- Bilal Powell (formerly Jets)
- James Starks (formerly Packers
- Matt Asiata (formerly Vikings)
- Alfred Morris (formerly Washington)
Check back later for potential late round running backs the Bears could consider drafting.