Matt Forte finally received the long-term commitment that he has been looking for over the last two seasons. His signing now means that Chicago has all of their pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs this season.
Forte's contract keeps him in Chicago over the next four years. Part of the fun of preseason is predicting what Forte will bring to the table over the length of his contract. Even though we don't now exactly who the Bears will be playing beyond this season, we'll take a shot at projecting Forte's stats over the next four years.
After last season, the Bears added Michael Bush to provide depth at running back and insurance against injury. Bush will be with Chicago for the same four years that Forte will be. Each season they'll split the touches as we've broken out earlier this month.
For 2012, expect Forte to pick up right where he left off last season. Solid rushing stats along with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Forte shows Chicago why they made the right decision to make a long term commitment:
223 carries, 1,025 rushing yards and seven TD's—48 receptions, 425 receiving yards and two TD's
As Forte and Bush enter their second season together, the split between them becomes a little more even.
Forte still has the bulk of the carries though and finishes the season with well over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. His yards-per-carry will probably drop a little bit, but still be over 4.0.
205 carries, 876 rushing yards and six TD's—42 receptions, 378 receiving yards and one TD
By 2014, the mileage is starting to catch up with Forte a bit. Injuries start to creep in a bit and Forte might even miss a game or two as he starts to work through his seventh season in the NFL.
By this point in his career he has over 1,750 touches, not counting playoff appearances and he'll probably have lost a step.
185 carries, 751 rushing yards and five TD's—33 receptions, 295 receiving yards and two TD's
In his final year of his contract, Forte will probably be slowing down. He'll be 30 years old by the time the season is over and, with almost 2,000 regular season carries, he'll have lost a step or two.
By this point, the Bears may have even drafted his replacement as Michael Bush is actually a year older than Forte and he'll be taking a back seat as well.
145 carries, 585 rushing yards and three TD's—31 receptions, 147 receiving yards and no TD's
Chicago has often shown a willingness to take care of their own. At 30 years old with 2,200 touches, the free agent market won't be knocking down Forte's door to give him a big contract either. Chicago will have already added a replacement for Forte by this point and Michael Bush will probably have moved on.
Expect Chicago to re-sign Forte to a modest veteran contract at this point. He'll have spent eight fantastic seasons with the Bears and they will want to show him some love, without paying him significantly more than he is worth. His veteran leadership will usher in a new crop of Chicago rookies for the future.
Thanks Matt for everything that you have done.