The Bears signed former Raiders running back Michael Bush to a 4-year, $14 million contract this morning. At first glance, this looks like a great pickup for the Bears, who have already strengthened their team by trading for Brandon Marshall and singing Jason Campbell. Unfortunately, many questions are now being asked.
The most common question that I have seen so far today regarding this signing has been, “What does this mean for Matt Forte?” Well, the signing of Michael Bush could have a couple different meanings for Matt Forte, with the first being that Bears are expecting Forte to holdout the first part of the season. The second reason for signing Bush, and the one that makes the most sense, was to add a very good back-up to Matt Forte. However, the theory of signing Bush in case of a Forte-holdout is what will get the most publicity in this case.
It is well documented that Matt Forte did not want the Bears to place the franchise tag on him, but they did anyway. Because of this, Forte has become pretty vocal about wanting a new, long-term contract extension with the Bears, or else he will not resign with them after this season. Seeing as how no deal has been agreed upon between Forte and the Bears thus far, the theory that the Bears signed Michael Bush with the fear of losing Forte for the first part of next season, and possibly permanently losing him after next season, seems very understandable. Why not go out and sign a good replacement to Matt Forte if you think Forte might holdout? Why not sign a good running back to a 4-year deal if you think your current running back won’t be with the team 2 years from now? If you look at that way, this signing makes a lot of sense.
The other reason that the Bears may have signed Bush was because they simply wanted a top-notch backup running back. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, the fact that for the fourth year in a row now the Bears have paid big money to backup running backs without paying Forte seems a little strange. If you look at this from Forte’s point-of-view, the Bears are showing him no respect. Yes, they placed the franchise tag on him for this year, which means Forte will earn a very comfortable amount of money, but they have shown zero commitment to him for the future. After the stats that Forte has put up since entering the NFL, it would only make sense for the Bears to lock him up for many years to come by giving him a long-term contract. If you’re Matt Forte, and you watch the Bears repeatedly sign backups to you for large sums of money, but yet you still don’t have a long-term commitment from the team, you can’t help but feel disrespected.
I’ve heard some rumors that if the Bears can’t resign Forte before the beginning of the season that they will try trading him. While it would make sense to see what they might be able to get for him, I don’t think the Bears will do this. You only get a Matt Forte-type player on your roster every so often, and if the Bears feel that they might be able to work out a contract extension with him even after next season, they will not try trading him.
As it stands now, the Bears will enter the season with arguably the best running back tandem in the NFL. That, coupled with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall, makes the Bears a definite contender in the NFC. However, a lot could take place between now and then for the worse. Let’s just hope it doesn’t…