The Bears opted not to negotiate with a very good veteran running back this offseason, and now teams will be lining up for the chance to speak with Matt Forte.
Though the relationship did not end poorly after eight seasons, two Pro Bowls, 8,602 rushing yards, 4,116 receiving yards and 64 total touchdowns — Forte thanked the Bears in an Instagram post Friday and the Bears returned the favor — there is little doubt that Chicago won’t regret this to some degree. Scouts say that Forte still has some juice in the tank, and at 30 years old, there might be a team that gets very lucky this offseason.
Which team might that be? Forte could be like many veterans hoping for a good look at the playoffs — he said in February that it’s not about the money, he just wants to be in Super Bowls. He might want to move his family back near his birthplace in Louisiana. As a finance whiz and brilliant motivational speaker, perhaps New York is the draw.
We help condense that list a bit here. While we don’t know what Forte is thinking exactly, we know which teams will be lining up for his services:
1. The New England Patriots: This is the obvious one. Forte would almost guarantee himself a trip back to the playoffs and a role in an offense that highlights his dual skillset. Tom Brady loves dual-threat running backs — who doesn’t — and knows how to use them better than any quarterback in the NFL. Bill Belichick almost specializes in maximizing contributions from late-career veteran running backs. Imagine an offense that included Dion Lewis and Forte, with defenses having to prepare for a slip screen, draw, power, pitch, wheel, etc., on every single play. This could give New England’s offense a versatility within 10 yards of the line that the team hasn’t seen since its productive double-tight sets from years ago.
2. The Seattle Seahawks: Before he was the consummate dual-threat back, Forte was a bruiser. At 6-foot-2, he had the ability to pound gaps better than most running backs in his prime. He has evolved plenty since then, but with the recent departure of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks could be interested in a smart and complementary running back to fit their system. Fred Jackson led all Seattle running backs with 32 receptions a year ago.
3. The Dallas Cowboys: At some point, this list simply becomes Teams Who Need A Good Running Back right? And if the Cowboys don’t overpay for Doug Martin or reach out to Chris Ivory, they’re going to need to find someone they can depend on. To this point, we have not mentioned Forte’s injury history, and while he might be more dependable than Darren McFadden, there is still no guarantee that Forte can stay healthy for 16 games — no player in football can say that. Forte, however does provide Dallas with the ideal situation. The Cowboys need a running back to complement their dominant, young offensive line. So draft one high and allow the star veteran to take the rookie under his wing.
4. The Baltimore Ravens: This team is a lot closer to competing than people think. With Joe Flacco back healthy and Ozzie Newsome in line for a top-10 pick, look out. And, with Marc Trestman calling the plays, Forte won’t have a difficult time learning the new playbook. Forte was a force under the former Bears head coach and would love to go out with dominant numbers. The Ravens are also trusting Justin Forsett, another 30 year old, who broke his arm in Week 11 last year, with a bulk of the carries.
5. The Green Bay Packers: With reports surfacing out of Green Bay that Mike McCarthy is frustrated with the team’s home-grown approach, could it be time for another Julius Peppers maneuver for GM Ted Thompson? Signing Forte would give Aaron Rodgers a dynamic pass-catching option out of the backfield and a mentor for Eddie Lacy, who seems to be toeing the fine line between star and former star quite aggressively.