The Chicago Bears were unlikely to offer Matt Forte a new contract, and the versatile running back made it official via an Instagram post.
“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.”
Fortunately for the 30-year-old back, he’ll have a handful of suitors on the free-agent market. Forte should even receive interest from a Super Bowl contender, which is appealing to him since he’s only appeared in the postseason once.
4. New York Jets
Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are set to become free agents, so the Jets clearly have a need. The franchise doesn’t have much cap flexibility, but it could make the numbers work.
New York must consider re-signing Muhammad Wilkerson, who might receive the franchise tag if the parties fail to reach a long-term deal. Wilkerson’s contract may determine whether or not the Jets can even make a run at Forte.
Still, he’d be a useful addition. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker lead a pass-catching group that should be even better next year. Jace Amaro missed the 2015 season due to injury.
Picking up Forte would give Ryan Fitzpatrick — assuming he re-signs — a versatile threat out of the backfield. Ivory wasn’t much of a receiver, and Powell isn’t a featured back.
3. Houston Texans
Age is a potential problem here, since the Texans are expected to release Arian Foster. However, that may be more a product of recurring injuries than him being set to turn 30 in August.
If the latter is indeed the perceived unfixable issue, Houston could turn to Forte. Neither Alfred Blue, Chris Polk or Jonathan Grimes emerged as a clear-cut starter in Foster’s absence last season, either.
Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes Texans owner Bob McNair said the team needs to get the “running game going again.”
Forte certainly isn’t a long-term guy, but he’d be a productive stop-gap while the Texans acquire better depth for the backfield. The eight-year pro would also provide a veteran presence on an otherwise young offense led by superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Last offseason, Dallas watched DeMarco Murray chase a payday and join the Philadelphia Eagles. But forget what happened in Philly. The Cowboys were a mess of their own.
From Joseph Randle to Lance Dunbar, Darren McFadden and all the way to Christine Michael, Dallas had a disastrous season in the backfield while injuries robbed Tony Romo and Dez Bryant of productive seasons.
What was truly stunning, though, is how the Cowboys completely ignored the position during the 2015 NFL draft. Signing Forte would allow Dallas to select a young runner this year and let him develop while holding a smaller role and, more importantly, phase out McFadden.
The Cowboys are a Super Bowl contender as long as Romo stays healthy and the offense has a respectable rushing attack. Forte, who has never tallied fewer that 898 yards, would give Dallas a legitimate ground threat.
1. New England Patriots
Without a doubt, the organization set to be mentioned most in the chase for Forte is New England. If he truly is placing a Super Bowl ring over money, the Patriots should be the top realistic option.
Dion Lewis performed well before a left ACL tear ended his breakout campaign, so expectations for him are tempered. Behind him, James White had more receptions than carries. LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden aren’t exactly elite players.
Forte simply makes sense, especially if he’s willing to accept a large paycut. Tom Brady loves his checkdown receivers. Forte had 102 catches in 2014 and has grabbed 4.1 passes per game over eight NFL seasons.
Around this time next year, we might remember how Forte’s willingness to sacrifice money in hopes of a ring immediately paid off.