LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With the regular season to end on Sunday, here is a look at five high-profile Chicago Bears who have cloudy futures with the organization.
1. Matt Forte, RB
Contractual status: Free agent
2015 statistics: 201 carries for 822 rushing yards and four touchdowns; 41 receptions for 355 yards and two touchdowns.
Outlook: Bleak. Forte said last week he doesn’t have much hope Chicago will offer him a new deal. The club likely views Forte as expendable in light of Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey's recent contributions. The Bears are clearly grooming Langford to be their feature back in 2016. Forte will play somewhere in the NFL next season. He still has immense value.
2. Martellus Bennett, TE
Contractual status: Signed through 2016
2015 statistics: 53 receptions for 439 yards and three touchdowns. Placed on injured reserve on 12/8.
Outlook: Complicated. Bennett wants a new contract. The Bears do not want to give him one. The mysterious nature of Bennett’s season-ending rib injury probably didn’t help the relationship between the two sides. Bennett is a great player, but it might be time for him to move on. There should be a trade market for the tight end. If not, the Bears would only have to carry $1.125 million in dead salary cap money if they cut him. Zach Miller (free agent after this season) is a more-than-capable replacement in 2016.
3. Jermon Bushrod, OT
Contractual status: Signed through 2017
2015 statistics: Three starts
Outlook: Bushrod is a consummate professional. He’s a super guy in the locker room, and someone who stabilized the left tackle position in 2013 and 2014. But Chicago is not going to pay $6.5 million (that includes $100,000 workout bonus) to a reserve offensive lineman. The writing is on the wall. It’s hard to envision Bushrod on the team next season, especially at his current contract. The Bears probably want to keep getting younger up front.
4. Alshon Jeffery, WR
Contractual status: Free agent
2015 statistics: 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns.
Outlook: Fuzzy. The Bears cannot afford to waive goodbye to young (Jeffery is 25), talented players. But Chicago has to take into account Jeffery’s history of injuries. What is he worth? When healthy, Jeffery is smack in the second-tier of the elite NFL wide receivers. That comes with a hefty price tag. But again, Jeffery is hurt a lot. Maybe the best course of action is to apply the franchise tag. If Jeffery reaches the open market, the Bears might find themselves in a bidding war. My guess is the club wants to avoid that.
5. Jay Cutler, QB
Contractual status: Signed through 2020
2015 statistics: 294-of-460 for 3,414 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions – 92.8 passer-rating.
Outlook: Most signs point to Cutler returning in 2016. He has definitely played well under offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. The idea of Cutler playing quarterback for the Bears in 2016 is palatable. However, the Bears did try to trade Cutler last offseason. Keep that in mind. Their true intentions remain unknown.