Matt Forte Announces He Won't Return to Bears Next Season

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2016

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Chicago. The Lions won the game 24-20.   (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Longtime Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte announced Friday that the team won't attempt to re-sign him before he hits free agency this offseason.

Forte posted a message on Instagram that confirmed his time in Chicago is coming to an end, explaining it wasn't his choice:

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. I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history. My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I'm excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home. God Bless and Bear Down!  

Zach Zaidman of the Chicago Bears Radio Network provided a statement from Bears general manager Ryan Pace about the decision:

The Bears selected Forte in the second round of the 2008 draft, and he quickly developed into one of the league's most dynamic backfield threats. He racked up over 1,700 total yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie and never finished with fewer than 1,250 total yards in a season.

NFL on ESPN passed along another note about his success with the franchise:

That said, Chicago's decision to move on doesn't come as much of a surprise.

Forte is now 30, and it's rare for running backs to meet or exceed their previous success once they reach that age. In fact, Pro-Football-Reference research showed must running backs hit their peak at 27 or 28 and then begin to decline.

Given the heavy workloads the Tulane product has handled throughout his career—he's tallied over 2,500 offensive touches during his eight years in the NFL—he's unlikely to reverse that general trend. He also dealt with a knee injury last season which further clouds his outlook moving forward.

That doesn't mean he cannot provide short-term value to another team, however. Forte still averaged slightly above four yards per carry and remained a weapon in the passing game in 2015. But it's just not the right fit for the Bears anymore.

Chicago has younger options at its disposal at running back, namely Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. It could also look to the draft or free agency for a cheaper third piece of the backfield rotation. Forte counted $9.2 million against the salary cap this past season, per Spotrac.

The veteran back may struggle to find that type of money on the open market. Instead, he'll likely be forced to accept a short-term, incentive-laden deal. Mike Reiss of suggested earlier in the week that the New England Patriots "could be a perfect fit."

If not the Pats, another team in a similar situation makes the most sense. Joining a contender that views Forte as a reliable veteran option would give him a chance to contribute while also trying to chase down a championship, something the two-time Pro Bowler never accomplished with the Bears.