Running back Matt Forte announced Friday what many forecasted: 2015 was his last season in a Chicago Bears uniform, as the team informed him it would not attempt to re-sign him as a free agent this offseason.
The recently-turned 30-year-old is certain to generate interest on the open market, and his future may be dictated by what he wants: an opportunity to play for an immediate contender (he's been to the postseason just once in his career) or to maximize the financial value of what could well be his last chance at a long-term contract.
That's Forte's call, and he's earned the right to choose his path. If thinking strictly from a system fit, a team that comes to mind is the New England Patriots. The team will be looking to pad its depth at the position this offseason (Dion Lewis continues to recover from a torn ACL and LeGarrette Blount and Steven Jackson are free agents to be) and covet what Forte offers: dependability.
Since entering the league in 2008, Forte has played 594 more snaps than any other running back in football. During three separate seasons, he played more offensive snaps than any other running back. He's durable, dependable and widely regarded as a quality teammate.
He's averaged fewer than four yards per carry in three of his eight pro seasons, but while he is not a consistent home run hitter, he's among the league's most adept pass-catching backs (he had 102 receptions in 2014, the most by a running back in a single season in NFL history) and can play on all three downs.
Forte-to-New England is a sensible marriage. The financial side is tougher to predict this early in the offseason, but from a football fit, it's easy to see how such an arrangement would work.
Several NFL Nation writers offered a few other landing spots for Forte:
The Packers could be a good landing spot for Forte. They have already tried to light a fire under Eddie Lacy for being out of shape and overweight last season. Plus, Lacy's backup, James Starks, turns 30 later this month, fumbled way too much last season and is scheduled to become a free agent. It's rare for GM Ted Thompson to sign free agents, but he signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers after the Bears cut him in 2014. -- Rob Demovsky
The Dolphins are a natural fit and potential landing spot for Forte. Rookie head coach Adam Gase was Forte's offensive coordinator with the Bears last season and knows him well. Forte could help Miami's players transition to Gase's new offense. In addition, Dolphins starting running back Lamar Miller is a pending free agent who may seek greener pastures, which would create a void Forte could fill. -- James Walker
With Ronnie Hillman an unrestricted free agent and C.J. Anderson a restricted free agent, the Broncos will look at who is available, and Forte's multi-dimensional abilities would fit the team's schemes. But Forte's ability to get the biggest potential deal will be elsewhere. The Broncos have other contracts and other needs that need more attention. The Broncos will always consider any veteran player like Forte, but at a price that fits for them and not what the player could likely get from another team. -- Jeff Legwold
For the right price, Forte could be of interest to the Cowboys, but he is on the wrong side of 30 and has had a lot of carries and catches. The Cowboys were reluctant to sink big money into DeMarco Murray last season and signed Darren McFadden. After a slow start, McFadden had 1,089 yards in 2015. The Cowboys need running back help and Forte would provide it, but they also need to get younger at the running back position. Ultimately it will come down to price. If it's reasonable, then the Cowboys would look at him. -- Todd Archer
Considering the Seahawks' cap situation and free-agency needs, I don't think they're going to spend the money on running back. The plan to replace the retiring Marshawn Lynch seems to be to go with Thomas Rawls and a couple of cheaper options. I'm assuming Forte is still going to be looked at as a starter by someone. -- Sheil Kapadia
In some ways he's a fit for the Redskins because he has a lot of what they want: a running back who can be a threat as a runner or receiver. He's also 30 years old and that would be a sticking point. Now, though, they don't plan to re-sign Alfred Morris. Even if he somehow returned because other teams weren't willing to sign him, the Redskins want more from the position. Forte could give the Redskins' running game a boost in case Matt Jones can't handle the full-time load. They would prefer a younger player here, so the hesitation absolutely comes from his age and his potential price tag. But he'd be a good fit for most teams. -- John Keim
Forte was injured last season, and he will be 31 this year, but in the prior two seasons he played in all 16 games. You might argue if the Texans sign an older back, why not just stay with Arian Foster. The answer is Foster's injury history is much more extensive and he is too expensive to keep at his current contract, which counts for more than $9 million against the cap. It might be better for both sides for Foster to be released and start fresh elsewhere. A veteran presence among the running backs wouldn't be a bad thing. -- Tania Ganguli
Forte could make sense for the Jets as a complementary back simply because there's so much uncertainty in the backfield. The Jets' top three backs -- Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley -- are pending free agents. At 30, Forte no longer is a No. 1 back, but he could be a fit in the third-down role if they can't re-sign Powell. The Jets would like to retain Powell and Ivory, but they have cap issues. -- Rich Cimini
The Jaguars feel they have their feature back in T.J. Yeldon, whom they took in the second round in 2015. They need a change-of-pace back, though, and Forte could fill that role. He's a very good receiver (487 catches in eight seasons) and would add a dimension to the Jaguars' offense that they don't currently have. The question would be whether he would be willing to accept a secondary or shared role. Money wouldn't be a problem because the Jaguars should have approximately $70 million in cap space. However, the Jaguars would have to decide if they're willing to pay Forte $4 million to $5 million a year (which seems to be the number that is being thrown around) for a part-time player. -- Mike DiRocco
The Saints have much bigger needs than running back, and they've already invested a lot in Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller. So Forte would be a long shot in New Orleans. But all of the Saints' backups behind Ingram are uncertain to return. And Forte is from New Orleans and went to college at Tulane. If he's interested in coming home -- and taking a hometown discount -- he would certainly be a great fit in New Orleans, which features running backs in the passing game as much as any offense in the NFL. -- Mike Triplett