Matt Forte announced on his instagram over the weekend that the Bears have decided not to re-sign him after eight season in Chicago. Forte was the Bears’ feature back for most of his career in Chicago finishing his Bears career with over 12,700 yards of total offense (8,602yds rushing, 4,116yds receiving) and 64 career touchdowns. Forte will be 31 by season’s end and says he still has a lot to give to the game, regretting only that he never got to bring a championship home to the best fans in sports. Forte will likely be looking at a big money deal on the open market with many teams interested in Forte’s ability to make plays in open space, something that’s proving to be and more of a commodity in the modern day NFL.
The simple math for the Bears and Ryan Pace is that they have severe needs at other areas, and the backup situation to Forte in his past two season here has been adequate enough to move on from the longtime Bear out of Tulane. Kendall Langford and Ka’Deem Carey seem to have proven enough to everyone around the Bears that they are deemed a suitable replacement for Forte. The Bears had a decent air to ground ratio last year and because they’re expecting a full year of health from both Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, their main focus heading into the offense won’t be offense but rather defense, and that’s why Matt Forte isn’t being re-signed.
The Bears have two capable backs who can do a multitude of things for new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains formerly of the Browns. The health of Jeffery, White, Bennett, Royal, and Marquess Wilson will be key to helping mitigate the loss of Forte who when healthy was a force. The Bears will have plenty of salary cap space with a $154 million ceiling in 2016 (Sportstrac). The Bears are also in possession of the 11th and 39th selections in the draft which again will be huge for Chicago. Shea McClellin is a free agent this year and is huge waste of a pick on the defense from the past. The Bears are hoping they didn’t repeat the same mistake on the offense with Kevin White whom they gave $2.5 million in a signing bonus by selecting him seventh overall last spring. White was put on the physically unable to perform list and eventually injured reserve cancelling his rookie season. White was the second receiver taken behind Amari Cooper and there were some impressive rookie wide receiver campaigns in 2015.
The Bears saw vast improvements from Jay Cutler in 2015 and the idea is that Cutler much like an Aaron Rodgers doesn’t need a bell cow back who touches the ball as much as Forte did. The Bears have weapons on offense, but need to start hitting on free agents and draft picks from the defensive side of the ball. The Bears second round pick last year Eddie Goldman was a big catch, and Kyle Fuller also looks like a really good player. The Bears have no pass rush off the edge, at least nothing resembling what we saw in the playoffs with guys like Kony Ealy, Von Miller, Chandler Jones, and Calais Campbell. The Bears want to get a pass rush out of outside linebackers, but the miss with McClellin and the underachievement of Lamarr Houston have the Bears scrambling as to how they’re going to get pressure on the quarterback in 2016.
This free agent period opens on March 9th at 3PM CST with the Bears potentially being big buyers this offseason. Chicago saw marked improvement from their quarterback, they’re potentially getting back a force in White, and they’re looking at the prime of Alshon Jeffery’s career for the next few seasons. Moving on from Forte seems like the right decision, he’ll be missed for sure, but as it stands right now that money needs to be allocated in different areas to help address other needs.