Matt Forte deal helps Bears move forward

The Chicago Bears and Matt Forte have agreed to a long-term contract (four years, roughly $32 million). This is great news for Chicago and certainly is something that both team and player had to get out of the way to best ensure the Bears can make a playoff run, or maybe more, in 2012.

Forte is a great player. His physical abilities -- size, power, speed, etc. -- don’t blow you away upon first glance, but he is very good in every one of these departments. Forte has great vision and very good balance and patience, but he also isn’t shy about hitting it up in there when it is time to explode upfield either between the tackles or on the perimeter. He is exceptionally smooth and Forte’s yards-per-carry average has risen dramatically the past two seasons. He is in his prime.

Forte is also one of the very best receiving backs in the NFL today, with the ability to detach from the formation and create matchups in the Bears’ favor against linebackers and even safeties. Forte has caught 51 or more passes in each of his four seasons, although he appeared in only a dozen games last year. Forte might have been the most productive running back in the league before that MCL sprain. There is no reason to think that production will not continue for the next several years.

The injuries to Forte and Jay Cutler totally derailed the Bears’ hopes last season. But with addition of Jason Campbell and Michael Bush, Chicago now has one of the best backup quarterback/running back tandems in football. Of course, Bush was signed as an insurance policy in case Forte’s contract situation prevented him from seeing the field. Also, Bush is clearly the superior short-yardage runner, which could result in more Chicago touchdowns.

Forte was a true workhorse in college, so lowering his touches going forward might be wise to help him stay effective down the road. Chicago is sitting pretty at running back for the immediate future and for the long term, as well.