By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears have been without star starting running back Matt Forte for two games now. It was thought that Chicago’s offense would suffer greatly with him out of the lineup and several experts predicted doom and gloom for the Bears rushing and receiving attack. The Bears had a fairly untested backup in Jeremy Langford who hadn’t played all that much and no one knew what they would get out of him. Well after two games Langford has done very well going well over 100 yards total in both games and has given the Bears offense the spark it needed to help them win these last two contests.
With Langford playing so well the fan base is starting to wonder what the Bears should do about Forte in the coming free agency period. Forte’s contract is over at the end of this season and he will become a free agent when the free agency hits in the spring. The Bears have made no effort to talk to him about getting a new contract and it doesn’t appear as if they are going to do anything during the season. And with Langford playing very well it’s going to be difficult for the Bears to go to Forte and offer him a good deal that might be amicable for Forte because they know they have Langford waiting in the wings to take over. That might cause the Bears to not offer Forte a new contract allowing him to hit free agency and sign with another team.
Is allowing Forte to leave via free agency a wise idea for the Bears? What do they do if Langford goes down? Granted Ka’Deem Carey has been able to carry his share of the load in games since Forte has been out but would he be a long term answer if Langford was to go down for a while? Would the Bears, upon losing Forte to free agency, have to draft another running back to back up Langford? Would they be able to find a running back in free agency to take over?
It’s also good to think that having both Langford and Forte on the roster at the same time would be of some benefit to the Bears. Forte could start and Langford could fill in and back him up as needed and this would give the offense a powerful one two punch that would keep teams off guard and help them pile up a ton of yardage. Some teams have two running backs that they rely on to share the load and this wouldn’t be any different. The Bears could be more creative on offense and have a more powerful “punch” on that side of the ball.
So what should the Bears do with Forte? Should they let him go in free agency and sign with another team or should they try to sign him and bring him back? One possibility is that the Bears don’t sign him and let him test the waters of free agency to see how much money he can get. If they can match another offer (seeing what his market value is) perhaps they will get him at a lower price and can have an agreement with him that will be good for both sides. Forte has stated that he would like to remain a Bear for the rest of his career so perhaps he will give them a “hometown” discount for having them resign him. That might make it easier for the Bears to bring him back.
But the Bears might not decide to go this route and let Forte walk in free agency. Some of the things that may be on Chicago’s mind with Forte is that he is nearing the age of 30 (he will be 30 by the end of the season). There aren’t a ton of successful 30 year old running backs in the NFL right now. They may also be considering the wear and tear that Forte has on him in thinking that he doesn’t have much longer to go before he breaks down. But Forte has shown himself to be very durable (although he has missed some time with an injury) and could last another one to two seasons with the Bears or with another NFL team.
Fans are sure to want Forte to stick around for another couple of seasons or more. He is a fan favorite and one of the players that can be considered a star on this team. If the Bears chose to keep him and not allow him to go into the free agent market then they will have one of the best backfield combinations in the NFL and that will make their offense that much better. If they chose to let Forte go then they will be relying on a (by then) second year player who doesn’t have a lot of experience and doesn’t have an ideal backup.
What would be nice is to have Langford back up Forte for a couple more seasons. But will the Bears be willing to risk the money and the time investment in having Forte back. It will be an interesting offseason in seeing what Chicago decides to do with Forte. Will he stay or will he go? It remains to be seen.