Matt Forte announced on Instagram Friday that he’s been told the Bears won’t re-sign him.
The 30-year-old running back will be a hot item in the free agent market. He set a record for receptions by a running back with 102 in 2014. His 1,846 all-purpose yards were sixth in the league. Forte missed three games with a knee injury in 2015 and finished with 898 rushing yards after three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
MOST YDs FROM SCRIMMAGE [SINCE ’08]
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 12, 2016
Forte values the chance to win a Super Bowl over making big money, according to NFL.com.
With that in mind, here are the five strongest contenders for Forte’s services when the free-agency period begins March 9.
Forte-to-Patriots buzz has been circulating for a few days, so no article about Forte’s future would be complete without mentioning the Patriots.
There certainly would be a chance to win a title in New England. While Forte is at an age when running backs normally start to decline, the Patriots have used a committee approach in recent years and Forte could be the featured back in a rotation with Dion Lewis and James White getting just enough carries to keep him from breaking down.
The Patriots aren’t afraid to kick the tires on 30-something running backs. Steven Jackson, 32, averaged 2.4 yards per carry after the Patriots picked him up in December. Forte has more tread on his tires than Jackson.
The Patriots’ perceived interest in Forte is sure to get the Jets’ attention.
According to ESPN.com, the Jets aren’t likely to re-sign Chris Ivory. The Jets have to figure out a way to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson before signing a big-ticket free agent like Forte, but according to Spotrac they’re in a better cap situation than the Patriots.
The Jets were on the cusp of a playoff berth last year and Forte would be an upgrade over Ivory as they try to break the Patriots’ monopoly on the AFC East.
Injury-prone Arian Foster hasn’t played a full season since 2012, and he tore his Achilles in October. According to the Houston Chronicle, there’s a good chance Foster’s days as a Texan are over.
Forte is eight months older than Foster, but a lot more durable. The Texans won’t win a Super Bowl until they get a legitimate quarterback, so Foster might have to wait a year or two for a realistic chance at the Super Bowl if he goes to Houston.
The Bengals seem to be set with a running back tandem of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. But maybe a featured-back approach led by Forte is what they need to get over their Wild-Card Wall.
Despite having the best run-blocking offensive line in the league according to Football Outsiders, the Bengals ran for just 3.9 yards per carry.
Hill led the team with 794 rushing yards but gained just 3.6 yards per carry. He did, however, share the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. Nine of those TDs came from the 5-yard line or closer, including five from a yard out.
If the Bengals add Forte, Hill could become a goal-line specialist and Bernard the third-down back. The Bengals have lost five wild-card games in five seasons, but the fact that they’ve been to the playoffs in five straight seasons checks the box next to “Title Hopes” on Forte’s list.
Forte could replace Marshawn Lynch as the engine of the Seahawks’ offense.
Thomas Rawls seems to be the Seahawks’ running back of the future, however. He isn’t the pass catcher that Forte is, but he ran for 830 yards in 13 games before a season-ending ankle injury.
Seattle would give Forte a chance to win a championship ring, but if the Seahawks have faith in Rawls then Forte probably isn’t on their radar.