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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay keeps Guion in the fold; Bears’ RB Forte intriguing player
Matt Forte was one of the Chicago Bears’ greatest running backs ever.
Forte ranks second only to the great Hall of Fame running back, Walter Payton, on the Bears’ all-time lists for rushing yards, yard from scrimmage, receptions and 100-yard rushing games.
Of course, most Packers fans knew that already. They have seen Forte give the Packers’ defenses fits for the past eight seasons.
He is a tough runner between the tackles. He is elusive enough to get outside. And he is like an extra receiver on the field. He is the consummate pro that Eddie Lacy is struggling to become.
Forte also is going to be available when the new league year begins on March 9. In announcing his departure from Chicago – the Bears subsequently confirmed the news – he talked about what a tremendous career he had there.
“Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end,” Forte said in an Instagram post. “I was informed earlier this week from the GM that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency.”
That’s a tough break for Chicago. It also may be a great break for Green Bay.
Through the years, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson have been effusive in their praise of Forte. One would almost believe they were green with envy. Now, if the Packers have enough green to go around, they might be tempted to kick the tires on Forte.
The price should be do-able. Atlanta signed Steven Jackson a few years ago at about $12 million over three years. Forte should be in that same financial ballpark. I think it would be an oversight if the Packers’ front office didn’t make a serious, concerted effort to bring in Forte.
Forte, at 30, could be a valuable acquisition for several reasons:
- The Packers are all too familiar with his work ethic, his production and his reliability.
- Forte’s ability to catch the football out of the backfield would make Green Bay’s offense that much more explosive. Imagine trying to defend Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Devante Adams and Ty Montgomery along with Forte.
- Forte is an accomplished blocker against the blitz, and by all accounts, he is a classy person and terrific teammate.
In short, Forte has many of the virtues that motivated the Packers to sign ex-Bears linebacker Julius Peppers.
Where would the Packers be without Peppers? Packers fans don’t even wish to entertain the thought.
Forte could be just as impactful on the offense. The idea would be to use him when Lacy needs a breather. He also could step in and be the lead dog if Lacy were injured, or if he continues to add weight instead of shedding it.
Furthermore, Forte would be an excellent weapon on third down situations. He also is exceptional in terms of the screen game.
So what’s not to like? James Starks is due to become a free agent. At 30, Starks is the same age as Forte, but really isn’t a proven No. 1 back.
Also, Starks’ friendship with the easygoing Lacy has been good but only to a point. Lacy seems comfortable sharing the attempts and the spotlight with Starks. That’s contrary to where his mindset needs to be with the Packers.
Lacy needs to view himself as the top back. Forte’s presence may motivate Lacy. It certainly would provide him with a firsthand look at how a true pro handles his business.
If Lacy jumpstarts his career by pushing away from the table it would great. However, there’s no guarantee it’s going to go that way this offseason. In fact, one could argue that if Lacy lacks the discipline to keep from packing on 30-plus pounds, what’s to suggest merely bringing in Forte would be enough to do it?
That’s where Forte comes in. At best, he and Lacy are a dynamic one-two punch. At worst, Forte bridges the gap between today and whenever Lacy needs to be replaced. That could happen within the next two years whether Forte is here or not.
The reality is such that Forte’s presence could make that gap a lot more palatable to the Packers. In 2015, when the Packers’ offense really needed Lacy to step up, the burly back was looking for an offensive lineman to lateral the football to.
That’s a bad look for Lacy, and it could be even worse for the Packers if they continue to allow his lack of discipline to adversely affect everything that they’ve worked so hard for.
Forte has several good seasons left. Why not let him play it out in Green Bay, capped off with a Super Bowl ring for good measure?
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.