Best Potential Fits for Free-Agent RB Matt Forte
On Friday, he announced the end of his run with the Chicago Bears in an emotional Instagram post.
"Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end," Forte wrote. "I was informed earlier this week from the [general manager] that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency."
Bears general manager Ryan Pace confirmed the news.
"We recently met with Matt to inform him we will not extend a contract offer for the 2016 season," Pace said, per ESPN.com. "These decisions are never easy, especially given what Matt has meant to our team and community. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him."
Forte, 30, accumulated almost 13,000 total yards and 64 touchdowns over eight seasons with the Bears. He twice made the Pro Bowl, with five career 1,000-yard rushing seasons and just eight missed games. In 2014, Forte set the NFL record for a running back with 102 receptions. He also leads the NFL in touches and yards from scrimmage since entering the league in 2008.
Here, we'll look at the best potential matches for Forte in free agency. These teams have the need and system for him, as he'll likely prioritize fit and winning over money on the open market next month.
Houston Texans: If the Texans move on from Arian Foster, Forte could become a real option. He's more reliable than the oft-injured Foster, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. It's also possible Houston won't want to replace one aging running back (Foster is 29) with another.
Denver Broncos: Both Ronnie Hillman (unrestricted) and C.J. Anderson (restricted) are free agents. Anderson figures to return, but the Broncos have other more important offseason priorities. However, general manager John Elway is unpredictable at this time of year and loves adding veterans. Forte might be willing to take less money to join the defending champs.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins could lose running back Alfred Morris, who will be a free agent this offseason. Matt Jones is a nice young player, but it will be tempting for Washington to consider adding Forte to an offense already featuring Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.
Indianapolis Colts: Veteran Frank Gore is still under contract, but he'll turn 33 years old in May. That's ancient for a running back. Forte is almost three years younger and a more versatile player in the passing game.
Baltimore Ravens: The connection here is an easy one, as former Bears head coach Marc Trestman is now the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. The only hurdle is Justin Forsett, who signed a three-year deal worth $9 million with the Ravens after a 1,200-yard rushing season in 2014.
Green Bay Packers
Don't rule out the possibility of Forte heading north and joining the Bears' biggest rivals, just as Julius Peppers did before the 2014 season.
One source told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that Peppers is already "talking about the possibility of reuniting" with his former teammate. While general manager Ted Thompson doesn't regularly make a splash in free agency, the fit between Forte and the Packers runs deeper than just Peppers' dreams.
Eddie Lacy struggled with his weight in 2015, and he's now about to enter a contract year in 2016. His backup, James Starks, is a free agent this spring. Adding Forte would both add insurance on Lacy and give the Packers a reliable, versatile back with the ability to make defenses pay as both a runner and receiver—something Green Bay's offense has lacked in recent years.
Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com wrote the Packers "could be a good landing spot" for the 30-year-old back.
Forte would likely have to take less money to land in Green Bay. But playing with Aaron Rodgers and for a team that has made the playoffs seven straight years might be worth its weight in gold for a running back who has been to the postseason just once in his career.
New England Patriots
The Patriots will continue to be one of the more likely landing spots for Forte once free agency opens next month.
It's easy to see the fit. New England has a need at running back, where LeGarrette Blount and Steven Jackson are free agents and Dion Lewis is coming off a season-ending ACL tear. And veterans who are nearing the end of their careers and searching for a championship have always gravitated toward New England. No team in the NFL would give Forte a better opportunity to play for a Super Bowl than the Patriots, who have been to five consecutive AFC title games.
Then again, New England has a special player on its hands in Lewis, who excelled as the passing-game back last season. If he's healthy to start 2016, it would be difficult to envision New England not giving him a big role as a receiver. Forte and his skill set might be too redundant for the Patriots.
However, Lewis' presence might actually be a luxury for Forte, as he wouldn't need to contribute as much in the passing game. Fewer touches as a receiver could potentially extend the effective window of his career.
The hiring of Adam Gase as the Dolphins head coach could open the door for Forte to follow him to Miami.
The two spent last season in Chicago, where Gase was the first-year offensive coordinator for John Fox and the Bears. Over 13 games, Forte had 218 rushes and 44 receptions for almost 1,300 total yards and seven touchdowns.
Before the season, Gase complimented Forte's remarkable ability to stay healthy and play every down.
"This is an unusual situation just because Matt has been in such great shape and has been so dynamic as far as staying on the field," Gase said, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. "...Matt's an unusual situation in that position because he's able to play every play, or has."
The Dolphins may also be in the market for a running back if Lamar Miller bolts in free agency. While Miller was born in Miami and played for the Hurricanes in college, he may be inclined to test the open market after a season in which he received only 194 carries. And as a 24-year-old back with largely untapped potential, it's possible the market could be kind to him financially.
If Miller finds a better situation and leaves Miami, Gase could turn to an old friend to fill the Dolphins' need at running back.
Despite a 4-12 season in 2015, the Cowboys still have one of the game's most talented offensive lines, and quarterback Tony Romo will return healthy in 2016. Dallas is only a five-hour drive from Forte's hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Owner Jerry Jones should be able to offer him an attractive package, too.
The problem is that McFadden finished last season strong, rushing for more than 90 yards seven times in his final 11 games and closing with 1,000-plus total yards. He's also younger (28) than Forte, with almost 1,000 fewer career touches.
Still, the Cowboys need depth at running back, and McFadden and Forte would make an enviable one-two punch at the position. If Jones can convince Forte his team is a true contender, the Cowboys can't be ruled out.
Beast Mode went into Retirement Mode, leaving the Seahawks with a potential need at running back. Might Forte be the answer for a team that just lost Marshawn Lynch?
On paper, the move makes a lot of sense. The Seahawks are a legitimate contender, with a top quarterback in Russell Wilson and one of the league's best defenses in place, for another run at the Super Bowl in 2016. Seattle also hasn't shied away from veteran running backs, as the signing of Fred Jackson last season proved.
In a lot of ways, Forte and Jackson are similar players. But Jackson is about to be 35, while Forte is only 30.
However, the Seahawks likely feel good about the future of rising sophomore Thomas Rawls, and the number of important free agents in Seattle this offseason might make it tough for general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll to commit money to Forte.