The Chicago Bears face a difficult decision with running back Matt Forte. With the team in a rebuilding mode, anything is possible. Forte, who’s entering the last year of his contract, is likely to face a lame duck season with the Bears unless the two sides agree to another contract extension.
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It feels like just yesterday, we were all swept up in the #PayForte movement on Twitter, getting a well deserved raise for the Bears running back. That was back in the 2011 season, before Forte had been named to the first of his two Pro Bowls. Forte, who had been playing on his rookie deal, inked a hefty 4-year, $32 million deal just ahead of 2012 training camp. Forte had been designated with a Franchise Tag, but since he refused to sign it, he missed the 2012 offseason training activities (OTA’s).
Forte has a history of sitting out and it’s unlikely he’d enter the 2015 campaign without some assurances about his future. It could get contentious with the 29 year old running back, who’s been a rare workhorse running back in an age of the Running Back by Committee.
Forte set the record for catches by a running back last season, snaring 102 balls last season as his carries plummeted under Marc Trestman. Regardless, Forte has over 1000 touches in the last two seasons. That’s some wear and tear on a demanding position that has a history of a rapid falloff with age and touches.
Forte has already bucked the trend, with steady production despite turning the corner past age 27, when most running backs start to fall off:
Forte has already started his PR campaign, trying to win the hearts and minds of Bears fans. He’s aware of some of the trade rumors, but thinks he still has a lot to offer:
The running back class in this year’s draft is deep. The Bears could wait until the middle rounds and still get a fine ball carrier. Will it be someone of the caliber of Forte? Who knows? John Fox has shown that he’s willing to shuffle pieces around in his backfield, going from Montee Ball to Ronnie Hillman to CJ Anderson just last season after letting their top running back from 2013, Knowshon Moreno, go before last season.
The Bears have nothing more than question marks in the backfield besides Forte. They drafted Ka’Deem Carey in the fourth round last season, but only got a whopping 36 carries in the Bears offense last season. That’s three carries fewer than Jay Cutler. What a wasted season, learning nothing about what they might have.
It’s a good bet Carey will be back and competing for a job as he’s dirt cheap. Will he be competing with Forte or will Forte get moved? I guess it depends on what his contract demands are. I can’t imagine that he’d get more than a 2-3 year extension offer that would have to be incentive laden to make sense for the Bears. 2015 is expected to be a transitional year for the Bears, who will be revamping their defense. The important question for Ryan Pace and John Fox to answer is whether Forte will still be productive when the Bears will matter again.