Ever since Dion Lewis tore his ACL in week 9, the New England Patriots had trouble running the football. Neither LeGarrette Blount, who himself landed on injured reserve after week 14, nor Steven Jackson were able to offer a lot on the ground.
With both big backs heading towards free agency and Lewis returning from season-ending injury it is clear that the Patriots need to improve the position either via the draft or via free agency. While free agency offers all kinds of running back types, the most versatile player to hit the open market might be the most intriguing one for New England: Matt Forte.
The 30-year old confirmed today, what many predicted will happen: that he won't return to the Chicago Bears, ending his eight-year tenure with the franchise.
Ever since getting drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Forte has been the best and most consistent player on the team's offense. During his eight seasons in Chicago, Forte appeared in 120 games (out of a possible 128), amassing 12,718 yards of offense and 64 touchdowns. A pure dual-threat, he was dangerous as a runner and receiver.
While Forte has played a lot of football at a physical position, he could be an interesting candidate for the Patriots, given his experience, durability and versatility. From Forte's perspective, the Patriots also seem like a good choice as he has made it clear that he wants to play for a winner:
It's not even about the money. I want to be in the Super Bowls.
Furthermore, with Lewis and James White returning as the receiving backs, Forte could have a clearer defined set of responsibilities in Foxboro. While the team will still use him in both the passing and running game, Forte would probably not be asked to catch as many passes or, simply, play as many snaps in New England.
The Patriots are as good a landing spot as there is when it comes to reaching the Super Bowl(s). Maybe the prospect of playing for a championship contender will also lead to Forte being willing to sign a team-friendly deal.