Fans in the Windy City have little to complain about on the football side of things. The Chicago Bears have their best quarterback and on paper their best receivers in decades. However, does no faith in the offensive line make Matt Forte expendable?
Bears staff believes offensive line and Forte contract will resolve in time
Clouds of uncertainty won't lift over Chicago fans around the offensive line. The big stat that experts keep pointing to is 105. That's how many times a Bears quarterback got sacked over the past two seasons. For that reason a lot of people gave the team bad draft grades for not adding a high round pick to the unit. Coaches Lovie Smith and Mike Tice don't share the same doubts as fans, however. That same line many labeled "bad" helped Matt Forte rush for nearly 1,000 yards in 11 games. It also played without its two most talented young players in left guard Chris Williams and right tackle Gabe Carimi. Under Tice, a respected guru of offensive lines and with both players back healthy the Chicago Bears believe they have the talent needed for a playoff run.
Fans disagree. They have put up options the Bears have for finding help, anything from free agent signings to a trade centered on Forte. What makes that rumor interesting is Forte is a Pro Bowl running back, only 26 years old and one of the few in the league known for his running and receiving skills. He could fit in almost any offense. If Chicago found the right team they could deal Forte for a left tackle. Forte would likely get his contract resolved and the Bears would still have Michael Bush and someone to protect the blind side of their quarterback.
Jake Long and Ryan Clady top the list of interesting NFL names
Praise of Jay Cutler has risen steadily since last season. Even skeptical experts who questioned him started to see he had not only talent but poise too. A few people, some of them respected analysts, had him in MVP conversations before he broke his thumb against the San Diego Chargers. They all agree if Chicago can find a way to protect him the Bears are a dark horse Super Bowl favorite. That is where the Forte trade idea gains interest. Several teams around the league would love a Pro Bowl running back on their roster but it comes down if whether the Bears want a proven left tackle or high draft picks. In the tackle area, two teams come to mind.
Both the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos have new quarterbacks, and questions around their left tackles. Miami drafted Ryan Tannehill and rumors slipped that with new head coach Joe Philbin in charge, current starter Jake Long might not have a home in South Beach much longer. In Denver, the arrival of Peyton Manning puts pressure squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Clady, whom many fans lost faith in after a tough 2011 season. A chance to give either Manning or Tannehill a Pro Bowl running back could get the foot in the door for any deal the Bears want to make. How high the MVP hype for Cutler might go after that is pure guesswork.
The truth is if the Chicago Bears do have interest in dealing Matt Forte, they have done a remarkable job keeping it quiet. Protecting Jay Cutler is still a top mission for coaches and the front office but until a player such as Jake Long or Ryan Clady pop up in NFL circles, the team will stay content with what they have.