It appears that Matt Forte’s tenure with the Chicago Bears has come to an end. Forte, who is set to become a free agent, was informed of the team’s decision not to retain his services for 2016 and beyond at the beginning of this week. Forte made the news public by announcing it on his Instagram account.
The GM that Forte referred to in the post is Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace, who was faced with many decisions this offseason, perhaps none more difficult than that of Matt Forte. Forte was one of 18 unrestricted free agents who also included wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, cornerback Tracy Porter, running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and tight end Zach Miller. According to a report from ESPN, Forte requested a contract extension last offseason, but that request was declined by Pace. Forte remained a consummate professional and played out 2015, essentially as a lame duck, and he still held out hope he could work out a new deal.
Matt Forte was drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Tulane and spent all eight seasons of his career in the Windy City. His 8,602 rushing yards are second all-time in franchise history, behind only Walter Payton. His 64 total touchdowns are third best among all Bears. Forte rushed for over 1,000 yards in five out of those eight years, including his rookie campaign when he rushed for 1,238 yards and compiled 12 total touchdowns. He was originally drafted to complement incumbent starter Cedric Benson, but Benson was released before the start of the season, thrusting Forte into the spotlight. It was a job he would not relinquish during his entire tenure in Chicago. And despite missing four games due to injury in 2015, Matt Forte was the Bears’ leading rusher with 898 yards on the ground. He also tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns.
It’s fairly clear that Matt Forte’s exit will open the door for Jeremy Langford to become his full-time replacement. It was Langford who tied Forte for the most touchdowns on the Bears, and the 2015 fourth-round draft pick added 537 yards on 148 carries. He carried the load in Forte’s absence in a showcase that made the decision easier for Bears’ management to move on from Forte in a less-expensive way.
What’s much less clear is where Matt Forte will play next. Last week, ESPN speculated that New England may be a viable destination after Forte told the NFL Network that “[i]t’s not even about the money. I want to be in Super Bowls.” The Patriots lost LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis to injuries during the season, rotating between James White, Brandon Bolden and Steven Jackson the rest of the way. The Packers, Panthers, Seahawks, and Cowboys could also be potential landing spots for the 30-year old who’d figure to be more of a complement than a featured back at this point in his career.
Shortly after Matt Forte made the news public via social media, the Bears confirmed the decision, with Ryan Pace releasing a statement.
“We recently met with Matt to inform him we will not extend a contract offer for the 2016 season. 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. Matt is one of the all-time great Bears and did an excellent job for us on and off the field last season. He was a tremendous teammate. We thank him for his professionalism and wish him the very best as he continues his career.”
What team do you think Matt Forte will play for next season and is he good enough to compete for a starting job?
[Photo by David Banks/Getty Images]