The Chicago Bears have been linked to several prominent free agents this offseason, including a few big-name running backs.
The Bears' best option is actually a former Bear...Thomas Jones, who will be released by the New York Jets as free agency begins on Friday, March 5.
Before everyone calls me crazy, hear me out.
First off, in regards to the other options...
Westbrook is a good player. He still has some explosiveness and quick moves, but his concussion problem is something that should steer Chicago away from him.
Tomlinson has fallen off. There is generally a rule of thumb with running backs that once they start declining, generally that decline is steep. He would still be a solid option for a change of pace back or for veteran leadership, but his price tag might be a little too high for his recent lack of production.
Of the main three, Sproles might be the most ideal, as he is without a doubt the best pass catcher of the group and quite possibly the most electric receiver coming out of the backfield we have seen in the entire decade. But odds are he can find a home (like back in San Diego) where he will get more touches, more money, and more of a chance to be an every-down back.
But Thomas Jones...I realize that the Bears and he parted ways on not so good of terms, but he is the ideal running back.
Bringing him in will give that offense another solid option in the backfield. Jones was at his best with Chicago when they ran dual backs with him and Cedric Benson. Team him with Matt Forte and there would be little drop-off between the two.
The only downside would be that there would not be a change of pace. Both backs have a similar style of running. But it would mean that we have a high-caliber player in the backfield at all times.
Last season with the New York Jets, Jones rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns—and the Jets are releasing him! While I know Jones rushed behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, he also played with a quarterback that was usually instructed to NOT lose the game (remind Bear fans of anyone else?), and defenses were teed up against the run every game.
Adding Jones would also allow the Bears to part ways with two other backups: Garrett Wolfe, who has not done a whole lot in three seasons, and longtime backup and special teams ace Adrian Peterson. This would also give Kahlil Bell a veteran back from whom he can learn.
The most important thing that T.J. can teach Forte and Bell is hard work. The man is a machine. He is the definition of a gym rat. Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer used to praise Jones for his work ethic. He works out hard, keeps his body fit, and never stops trying to get better. What more could you ask for out of your running back?
I understand that this is a long shot considering the terms he and the Bears left on, but Thomas Jones should be the best fit at the best price for a position that needs some leadership.