Matt Forte’s Future With The Chicago Bears Might Not Be In Jeopardy

Matt Forte will not suit up for the Chicago Bears this Monday night. After injuring his knee in the previous game, a division matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, it is unclear when he will return to the lineup. Rookie Jeremy Langford will start in Forte’s place.

The injury, described simply as damage to his MCL (courtesy of the Chicago Tribune), disallowed him to finish the Vikings game. There was little to no damage to his ACL. Had that been the case, Forte would have been an obvious candidate for the short-term injured reserve list. A torn ACL, as some originally feared, would have muddied his future status as a pending free agent. It would have also created some serious doubt about a Bears’ return. Despite it not being a career-threatening ailment Matt Forte’s days might be numbered with the Bears.

First-year general manager Ryan Pace did not want to engage in contract extension talks with Forte. Pace wanted to play the wait-and-see approach with him and other pending free agents. Sure, Matt Forte has a strong resume with the Chicago Bears. He is an elder statesman at the running back’s position at 29-years-old.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01: Patrick Omameh #65 of the Chicago Bears blocks Terence Newman #23 of the Minnesota Vikings for Matt Forte #22 in the third quarter at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Minnesota Vikings defeat the Chicago Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) [Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]Today’s NFL game is no place for older tailbacks.

Matt Forte is just a few weeks from turning 30. He is a Bears’ stalwart, but would they pay his asking price? What will help his case is a strong finish.

When will Matt Forte play again?

According to ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson was able to talk to Bears’ head coach John Fox. He was told by Fox that the All-Pro’s status was truly day-to-day when it comes to his return to the football field.

“Yeah, you know and chances [that a guy plays] and timelines … you know I can’t determine that. It’s truly day-to-day. Matt’s a leader on this football team. He was voted captain on offense. He’s definitely been that guy [a leader] since we’ve been here and I think he’ll continue to do that.”

Day-to-day could mean that Forte could be back for the road date with the St. Louis Rams. It could mean that he sits out that game as well and returns for the defensive-minded Denver Broncos.

In the meantime, the game versus the Chargers could be a glimpse into the Bears’ future.

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Jeremy Langford has a chance to dazzle and stake his claim for the starting running back’s job going into next season. San Diego is the site for his audition. A 100-yard game by him will go a long way in determining what to do going forward. Langford has the chance to become a future cornerstone of the Bears franchise. He has to earn it. While earning it, he must do his part by making Matt Forte expendable.

A strong outing by Langford will spark an intriguing debate.

Should the Bears move forward with him leading the position while he is on his rookie contract? Should the Bears try to convince Forte to take a three-year deal laced with incentives?

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The latter gives the Bears a potent one-two punch at running back. And, as Forte’s contract is ending, Langford — provided that he can be effective throughout — will be available for his extension. Timing would be ideal. Langford can continue to learn how to become a professional on and off the field from Forte. The veteran can then be in the position to retire as a Bear, which is how it should be, and it would take place just in time for Langford to take the baton.

Everything will hinge on how much money Matt Forte commands this offseason. The Bears want him there if the price is right. Once a running back hits a certain age, a steep decline usually occurs. This will happen to Forte at some point, but there is some hope for those who want to see him remain as a Bear.

Creativity with Forte and how he could be used offensively could extend his playing days.

Matt Forte is the tallest starting running back in the NFL. He is listed at 6’2″. What has made him a great player over the years is his ability to catch the football. As NFL offenses continue to evolve, more running backs have become receivers out of the backfield. Some of them occasionally line up as a wideout. Forte’s future could be as a receiver. That would increase his value and maximize his potential contract.

Matt Forte’s MCL injury has opened the door for Jeremy Langford to take the reigns as the tailback of the future. That does not mean that Forte’s tenure with the Chicago Bears is over. In fact, it may be time to recalibrate his role in order to maximize his value.

[Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]