At the beginning of the Bears’ 2015 season, the speculation regarding the return of running back Matt Forte felt like a foregone conclusion. Many fans seemed to accept that the likelihood of the star back returning was slim to none, and you would be hard pressed to blame them. With each dazzling carry, even in the losses that peppered the Bears 6-10 season, it felt like we were witnessing a farewell tour for a great player, well before that was the case.
The reality of the situation is cold: The NFL is a business, and the stars weren’t aligning in Matt Forte’s favor:
- Running backs, especially bell-cow 3 down backs, are a dying trend, losing favor to platoons of the position.
- Running back is something of a meat grinder position, and 30 is considered the start of decline and a generally safe bet on when the mileage catches up to these athletes.
- Forte was a productive & reliable star who had earned the right to demand a lucrative, high-dollar contract, likely laden with guarantees.
“I figured they would at least offer me something mid-to-low range of the free-agent market. For them to tell me that they don’t want you back is always kind of a hard pill to swallow. But you roll with the punches — that’s their decision — and you move on.”
While that doesn’t sound brash or resentful, coming from the usually placid Forte it seems almost markedly disappointed. Hurt, even.
In the time that passed, the Bears went on to offer restricted free agent running back CJ Anderson a very lucrative contract that he didn’t end up signing. Anderson would’ve made sense for the Bears’ new regime: He has no problem working in a platoon of running backs, has a history with coach Fox, and more to the point is only 25 years old.
While Anderson ended up re-signing with the Denver Broncos, the news of the Bears’ offer made headlines. With the knowledge that such ambiguously high money was being extended to Anderson, many fans and pundits wondered why they would be so hesitant to even offer Forte a contract, much less for a smaller value.
That sentiment circulated again today via a brief Matt Forte tweet:
While there doesn’t seem to be outrage from fans (re: Brandon Marshall’s trade), it’s more a wounded curiosity of why a loyal, humble, proven star in Forte wasn’t given the chance to potentially end his NFL career in the city where it began.
The simple answer is that CJ Anderson’s reasons for becoming a Bear made far more sense than Matt Forte remaining a Bear. Being 5 years younger is almost reason enough, as callous as that may sound.
I don’t think there’s a single Chicago Bears fan out there that wishes ill upon #22, and I feel as though we are all extraordinarily grateful for his Bears tenure, but this end is necessary. Besides, if any fans feel upset over Pace not offering Forte a contract, look no further than how Phil Emery handled Brian Urlacher to see how that can sometimes be far worse than simply agreeing to part ways.