Should the Bears Sign Arian Foster?


I’ve seen a number of writers recently speculate on whether the Bears should sign free agent Arian Foster, and my initial reaction was that this was a positively ludicrous idea. As a matter of fact, I had written an entire article bashing the idea from every angle I could think of, and I was proudly waiting to submit it as I was going through the final stages of FanSided Training Camp with the hope of making the team as a staff writer.

After training and exchanging a few excited emails with my editors, I was almost ready to post it, but I was advised to review the last couple of weeks’ posts to make sure I was not double covering. That did not turn out to be a problem, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mike Flannery, one of my editors, was among the folks who had floated the possibility of signing Foster.

Now, let me be clear, the FanSided network strongly encourages civil differences of opinion, and doubly so when it comes to something so speculative as a potential free agent signing. And, Mike was not advocating the signing, so much as reporting the news. Still, there is nothing like wondering whether you are about to poke your new editor in the eye with a stick to get you to lean your head to one side, squint a little bit, and have a long, hard look at the opinion you are about to try to publish. So, I did that.

I still stand staunchly by the idea that the Bears don’t need Arian foster. The rebuilding results so far have made me a believer. I think Ryan Pace has made it clear that his staff is among the best talent evaluators in the league. I think that John Fox attracts top notch coaches. If Pace and Fox think they can produce results with the running backs they have, I’ll have to see proof that they are wrong before I believe it.

I also still believe that the rebuilding efforts on the offensive line are better than a lot of people seem to think. No, Bobby Massie may not be the best right tackle in the league, but I believe it is possible he could be a bit better at it than Kyle Long was, and I believe that at right guard, Kyle Long could become the best in the league. I also believe that Cody Whitehair could be a top shelf left guard.

I am convinced that just those improvements to the offensive line could get Jeremy Langford close to another yard per carry, and I have read that the Bears coaching staff is specifically coaching Langford on improving yards after contact, so, a breakout season for that young man is not at all crazy to consider.

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None the less, I get pretty mad when people dis’ the Bears without thinking, so I decided I couldn’t dis’ Arian Foster without some deeper thought. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that even if he gets hurt, a world class running back is still a valuable mentor on the sidelines. Then I thought, well, the Bears are a really young team, and that made me wonder just how young they are. So I started surfing roster stats to find out.

Much to my surprise, I learned that when you break down the 90 man rosters, the Bears are currently the 18th youngest team in the league, based on years of NFL experience. Just into the more experienced half. They have the 7th smallest number of rookies on their roster. But, they are tied for 7th most in the number of players with 1 to 3 years of experience and tied for 2nd most for players with 4 to 6 years. Then they are tied for 6th fewest players with 7+ years.

Well, gee, that sounds like a young, yet veteran squad, right? Just enough rookies to spur competition? Well, figures can’t lie, but, liars can figure, and I’d be a liar if I said that was the whole picture. I started crunching numbers by position group. Running backs fall right in the middle of the Bears pack at exactly 3 years average experience, and at the bottom of the roster in terms of players with 5+ years of experience, with one guy, Jaquizz Rodgers, whose 6 years are more on special teams than on offense.

“Somebody’s life is better because I lived, and that’s what all this is about. And as soon as I fix my circle, then I’m going to go outside of my circle and I’m going to try to help other peoples’ lives be a little easier.” – Arian Foster

That led me to do some more research on Arian Foster, who I admit I did not know much about, other than that he has had injury problems, but has been a beast when healthy. Turns out he is also a class act. He is the kind of guy who could get injured in preseason, never play a meaningful down and still leave a lasting, positive impact on the Bears organization.

He’s a guy who measures himself by the positive impact he has on other people’s lives. I’m on the fence as to whether I am actively advocating the signing of Arian Foster. The Bears do not have an urgent need for him. But, if the Bears do sign him, I will surely celebrate. He could have a huge impact on the field if he bounces back and stays healthy, but if he comes on board, he will have a large impact, no matter what.

That said, my unpublished (ok, retracted) ideas about Arian Foster pretty much called into question almost all of the other free agents that Mike Flannery reported were available. And I have to reconsider those thoughts as well. I have not done the research on the top prospects Mike mentioned, but I have identified position groups where a quality veteran mentor would be an advantage.

Defensive line, with an average experience of just 2.55 years, five rookies and only two players with 5+ years experience could benefit from a quality veteran free agent. Next is defensive backs with 2.94 years average, five rookies and four veterans (a couple of whom have made a living on special teams). Offensive line is the last group whose numbers point to a value for a veteran free agent, with 3 years average, five rookies and three veterans, though I stand by what I have said, and think this group can be special. (Kyle Long at 4 years didn’t get counted in that veteran number.)

Linebackers are one of the most experienced position groups on the team, with 3.57 years average experience, only 4 rookies and 6 guys at 5+ years, but, I have to admit, signing Dwight Freeney to mentor Leonard Floyd would be a VERY good idea.