All things being equal, I would certainly rather have Matt Forte this season than not have him. I mean, despite the reasons I will present to you in this article, I do recognize that Forte is a valuable asset for the Bears offense.
That said, the Bears can win the Super Bowl without him. Yes, the team is better with him, but if he were to hold out for the season—a move that I feel is not in his best interest—the Bears would be just fine.
In short, Forte doesn't really have a lot of leverage in these contract negotiations. If the Bears call his bluff, and Forte refuses to sign the franchise tag, he stands to lose $7.7 million. They could attempt to trade him at that point, but if they don't, he's simply out of luck.
And out of money.
For that reason, as well as the fact that NFL careers can be brief, I think it's highly unlikely that Forte holds out all season.
But if he does, here are eight reasons why the Bears can still win a championship.
One of the main reasons why the Bears would be fine without Forte is the signing of Michael Bush—the former Oakland Raiders running back. Bush can help you out of the backfield, catching short dump passes, as well as running the ball.
In 2011, Bush fell just shy of 1,000 yards rushing to go along with 418 yards receiving. While his rushing average was only 3.8 yards per carry, he has scored almost twice as many touchdowns than Forte has over the past two seasons, despite not playing as an every-down back.
For his career, Bush has the same rushing average as Forte, at 4.2 yards per carry. They also have the exact same number of TDs, at 21.
Plus, both are good at holding onto the football. In fact, Bush has fumbled just three times in his career in 632 carries vs. Forte's seven in 1,014 attempts.
I'm not trying to make the case that Bush is as good as Forte, but you can see that he's a good replacement if needed. If nothing else, he's a great insurance policy.
Bell is a very good third-string option, so even the loss of Forte would give the Bears an excellent backup to Bush if that should happen.
Bell averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season, with 337 yards in 79 carries. He did fumble three times and needs to work on holding the ball better, but he would be another reason why the Bears could survive if Forte didn't come back.
Bell added 19 receptions and a touchdown catching the pass as well, so he's versatile, just like the other backs on this team.
The departure of Mike Martz means that Tice will be calling the plays this season. That means less reliance on Forte, even if the Bears back does sign his franchise tag offer.
Tice is expected to throw the ball more often, and even though the offensive line is a question mark, he will have Cutler get rid of the ball quicker and provide maximum-protection schemes at times, which should improve Cutler's blocking.
While Martz loved to throw the ball too, he preferred using one back as his main horse, like he did with Marshall Faulk with the Rams. That was Forte last season, but now that Tice is calling the plays, he will spread the offense around more.
The biggest and best improvement the Bears made to their offense this offseason was the trade that brought in Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall. Marshall reunites with his old teammate in Denver, Cutler, to hopefully recapture the magic the two of them once had.
With a legitimate No. 1 WR, the Bears don't need Forte as much. In previous years, Forte was such a big percentage of the Bears' total offense that to lose him would have been devastating. But with Marshall, the Bears become more of a passing team.
Marshall is used to a lot of work. He has caught more than 80 passes each season, except for his rookie year. Three times, he has surpassed the 100-catch mark.
In 2011, he caught 81 balls for 1,214 yards and six TDs. In his career, he has played in 91 of the 96 games played.
In addition to Marshall, the Bears added Alshon Jeffery through the draft. Jeffery is tall and should be a great weapon for Cutler, especially in the red zone, jumping for passes.
With the addition of Jeffery, the Bears' receiver corps is improved over last season, making the wide receiver position more useful and taking away at least part of the overall need for a running game.
It is a passing league, and finally, the Bears can enter that world. You still need a running game to balance things out, but if Forte wasn't with the team, the Bears can simply pass the ball more to guys like Jeffery.
Another change with Martz being gone is that the tight end will be used as a receiving weapon in the Tice offense. That gives the Bears another option to consider if Forte doesn't sign or is ineffective for some reason.
We don't know yet if Kellen Davis can be the kid of tight end who catches 40-60 passes, but he has the ideal size and will get an opportunity to show what he can do.
The Bears also drafted a hybrid tight end in Evan Rodriguez, who has a good burst after catching short passes. He can help alleviate that part of Forte's game if the Bears had to play without Forte.
Check out this list: Ahmad Bradshaw, James Starks, Pierre Thomas, Willie Parker, Dominic Rhodes, Corey Dillon, Antowain Smith and Michael Pittman. They are the leading rushers over the last 10 Super Bowl-winning teams. In fact, Parker and Bradshaw twice led their respective teams in rushing yards in two Super Bowls.
What this list shows is the type of backs that championship teams have had, in comparison to Forte, who is a dominant No. 1 back. Forte is the best of those backs, especially when factoring in his ability as a receiver out of the backfield.
It's become a passing league, and the Bears truly believe that Cutler is the one who will take them to the promised land, not Forte.
The one weakness that Forte has is that he's not a short-yardage runner. That's why, over the years, the Bears have signed Chester Taylor, Marion Barber, and now, Bush, to complement that one area of weakness in Forte's game.
That means he doesn't score. And scoring touchdowns certainly makes your offense a lot more potent than field goals. He may get you to the 20-yard line, but once in the red zone, you can't rely on Forte to get you over the hump.
That's another reason why losing Forte wouldn't necessarily kill the Bears' chances this season. Again, I'd rather have him there, but if he's not, they won't miss him in terms of scoring TDs.