The Bears are lucky to have Matt Forte, he is easily one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the NFL. Ranking third in all time rushing yards only behind Bears legends Walter Payton and Neal Anderson with a total of 6,666 yards. What makes Forte so dangerous though is his dual threat purpose. He can do it all – from blocking, running, to catching the ball. Forte is consistent and makes people miss in the open field. He opens up the field, and keeps defenses on their heels. Its no wonder Emery elected to franchise tag him in 2012, and quickly led Emery to sign him before the league year started. Forte signed a four year contract worth $31.5 million ($17.1 million guaranteed).
In 2012 everyone (myself included) was beyond excited to see Forte back with the Bears. After months of wondering if Phil Emery was going to let him walk, fans braced for what new offensive coordinator Mike Tice was going to put on the field. What fans got was not what we expected. Forte had career lows in receiving categories, but continued with his 1,000 yard rushing seasons (a number that seems to be losing its weight), however just barely. It seemed as if Forte was less electric, not to mention injury issues were nipping at his heels. Forte’s ability as a dual threat disappeared and fans wondered if he would return to form.
Fast forward to 2013 and a new head coach, Marc Trestman installed a new offense and made a proclamation from day one. This offense will run through Matt Forte (pun intended). He made sure of that, as last year Forte ran for a career high 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns (another career high), as well as a career high in receiving yards, 594 yards total along with three touchdowns. Showing fans that with the right playbook Forte could be the franchises workhorse.
Here we stand heading into next season, Forte guaranteed to be the Bears featured back, and that won’t change anytime soon. As for who backs him up, I think Michael Ford will get his chance. As of now Michael Bush (so many Michaels) is the lead back up, but having only amassed 197 total yards in Trestman’s offense, he just doesn’t seem to fit. Even as a downhill runner he had issues in 2013. I think its likely he won’t be back with the Bears in 2014, he and the Bears could both benefit from the release. I still think Bush could ultimately start in the right offense, just not Trestmans. It’s likely that Ford will receive a chance to become the backup in camp, with Emery likely bringing in more UFAs, or a late round pick (although unlikely). If Emery does trade down (also unlikely) he could find some additional talent at running back, and at that rate its hard to be certain who Forte’s backup will be. We haven’t yet seen enough from Ford yet to bestow that title on him.
As the running back position changes, Forte is primed to move along with the future. If he can continue to be a dominant force in the NFL, for the Bears, I see him in that uniform until his career is over. He has been durable, and proven to be great even at 28. Phil Emery does have an alarming recurrence of letting veterans hit the open market though. Forte is a great player and its great we have him locked up for at least two more years. Another year in Trestman’s offense will only help the half back. Its a good time to be a Bears fan.