Chicago Bears: What If Matt Forte Won't Sign His Tender?

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 03: Running back Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears takes in a game against between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center on January 3, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hawks 76-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As we hurtle headlong towards Training Camps, every team has question marks. Things that are unsettled which go beyond the 'who is on the roster bubble' type question.

Questions which may not be quickly settled and when they are, could cause some large ripples.

Today we tackle one of the more pressing questions facing the Chicago Bears: What if Matt Forte won't sign his tender?

As we speak, it appears that Forte and the Bears are no closer to an agreement than they were at the end of the season. It looks unlikely to resolve itself in time for camp, and worse, it may not be resolved in time for the season either?

If Forte won't sign his tender, the Bears have left themselves with options though.

Signing Michael Bush was a clear sign that the Bears would not cave easily, but it was also more than that. It was insurance.

The Bears have already done a version of this dance with Forte before and, internally, they probably knew he wouldn't settle for less than a full contract. As that was the case, they went out and acquired one of the top backs in free agency.

While Bush isn't as good as Forte, nor as proven, he has all the tools to be a good starter for Chicago, perhaps even long-term.

However, the Bears wouldn't likely stop there. Behind Bush are too many question marks.

Kahlil Bell has good size and the strength to break tackles, as well as the ability to get through trash at the line and into the secondary. While he played well in 2011 when Forte was hurt, the Bears know he's not a long-term option, otherwise why bring in Bush?

In the event that Forte stays away into the season, Bell would be the primary reserve in case Bush went down. Behind him for now are big, bruiser Harvey Unga and scat back Armando Allen.

None have the experience or ability to carry the ball for long if Bush goes down.

Two players are likely prospects for a long look if Forte refuses to sign his tender, one for a homecoming and one a former division rival.

Cedric Benson didn't exactly leave Chicago on a great note, but in the NFL people let bygones be bygones when they need each other.

Benson played well for the Cincinnati Bengals, topping 1,000 yards three out of the four years he played there. He never scored a ton of touchdowns, and was banged up most years, just as he has been most of his career.

He has shown some good ability though, and has the experience necessary to make a second stay in the Windy City a more successful one.

While he wouldn't be a long-term answer, he would be able to hold down the fort if Bush were to get hurt.

Another potential name with starting experience would be former Packer Ryan Grant.

Grant's last two years were underwhelming due to injury in 2010 and splitting carries in 2011. While Grant will never be mistaken for an elite back, like Benson he has a wealth of experience and has shown he can run the ball hard when needed. The only real question with Grant is whether he can take a full load. Even as a starter in green bay, he didn't get the carries he would in Chicago.

Still, he is far more proven than Bell, much less Unga or Allen.

If Forte doesn't sign his tender, a big what if, but that's the point. The Bears would do well to bring in a veteran who can fill in for Bush if he's hurt.

We found out what happens when you try to fill in for a starter with a less experienced and less proven vet when Cutler was hurt last year.

It's best to learn from that mistake and take every precaution.


Quick shout out to fellow B/R writer and Chicago correspondent Matt Eurich for the 'What if....' series idea. Give him a follow at @matteurich and if you're a Chicago fan in any sport, read his stuff right here at Bleacher Report.

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