The New England Patriots need a running back, and one of the NFL’s most consistent players will hit the open market in less than a month. Might as well announce the introductory conference call now, right?
That all depends on Matt Forte, who will become a free agent March 9 and said last week: “It’s not even about the money. I want to be in the Super Bowls.”
Forte has a chance to put his money where his mouth is after announcing Friday that the Bears won’t re-sign him. If Forte really is willing to take a pay cut to compete for a Super Bowl, the Patriots would be a great fit for the eight-year veteran’s services.
Forte is 30 years old and coming off the least productive season of his career, though he still had 218 carries for 898 yards and 44 receptions for 389 yards with seven total touchdowns. He’s one year removed from the two most productive seasons of his career, however, when he had 1,933 and 1,846 yards from scrimmage in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Dion Lewis, who tore his ACL in Week 9 of the 2015 season, is expected to be the Patriots’ starting running back in 2016. The Patriots also have special-teams ace Brandon Bolden, reserve sub back James White, fullback Joey Iosefa and Tyler Gaffney, who has spent his first two seasons on injured reserve, on their roster.
LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots’ starter after Lewis went down, is a free agent. Steven Jackson also is a free agent after signing a one-year contract with the Patriots late in the 2015 season.
Lewis was fantastic last season, but he comes with uncertainty after he suffered the knee injury just three months ago. The Patriots typically like to carry a smaller, shiftier back and a “big back” on their roster. Forte would fill the latter category.
Forte certainly wouldn’t be the first veteran running back signed by the Patriots at the tail end of his career. They previously have employed Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, LaMont Jordan, Joseph Addai and Jackson to varying degrees of success. Dillon, who had 820 carries for 3,391 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons with the Patriots, was the most successful veteran running back add, while Addai, who didn’t even make it to training camp in 2012, was the biggest bust.
Forte has the size and versatility the Patriots typically look for in a running back. He’s 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds, and has 487 career receptions to go along with his 2,035 carries. He caught 102 passes on 130 targets for 808 yards in 2014. He also has fumbled on just .79 percent of his career touches. Ex-Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, who was benched during his time in New England for issues with turnovers, fumbled on 1.34 percent of his touches.
Free agency doesn’t begin for another month, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on Forte when he officially hits the open market.
Thumbnail photo via Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports Images
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