Nearly three years after being spurned by one veteran running back, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson reportedly has interest in another.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that the Packers have expressed interest in Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte during the legal negotiation period. Forte is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday after the Bears informed the 30-year-old running back that the team doesn't intend to re-sign the two-time Pro Bowler.
Forte has racked up a lot of mileage in his eight seasons in Chicago with 2,522 touches for 12,718 total yards and 64 touchdowns. He likely would have eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the sixth time in his career if an MCL sprain hadn’t sidelined him for three games.
The Packers are looking for a running back to complement Eddie Lacy, who’s coming off an underwhelming third NFL season. If they're looking for a veteran, Forte appears to make sense. ESPN.com recently reported that former Bears teammate Julius Peppers has been recruiting Forte to join him with the Packers.
Before drafting Lacy in 2013, the Packers engaged in contract talks with former St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson before he signed a three-year, $12 million with Atlanta. The three-time Pro Bowler, who was 30 at the time of the signing, rushed for only 1,250 yards in two seasons and was subsequently released.
Meanwhile, Lacy produced 3,001 total yards in his first two NFL seasons, was selected to a Pro Bowl and honored as the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2013. However, the Packers are in the market for an extra back in the wake of Lacy’s turbulent 2015 season and James Starks headed to free agency.
Forte’s versatility makes him a better fit in Green Bay than Jackson. The Packers were looking for a bell cow in 2013 whereas now they’d like to add a capable running back who provides matchup concerns as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He has 487 catches for 4,116 yards and 19 touchdowns in his NFL career.
Despite Forte’s heavy workload, he has missed only six games in eight NFL seasons.
As was the case with Jackson, money will determine whether Forte can be reeled in. One of the reasons Thompson hasn’t signed an unrestricted free agent in nearly four years is because he’s not willing to overpay for them.
The Packers are allowed to speak with Forte’s agent, Adisa Bakari, during the legal negotiating period that began Monday, but an official agreement cannot be signed until the start of the new league year at 3 p.m. CST Wednesday.
Forte reportedly isn’t the only Bears player of interest to the Packers. ESPN’s Ed Werder and 247Sports’ Luke Rodgers are reporting the Packers have shown interest in tight end Martellus Bennett. The Bears are hoping to trade the former Pro Bowler, but could release him if a deal isn’t reached.
Bennett (6-foot-6, 273) is coming off a down season (53 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns), but is only one year removed from a 90-catch, 916-yard season in 2014. He’ll turn 29 on Thursday.
Former Wisconsin standout Owen Daniels also was released by Denver on Tuesday. The 33-year-old tight end took a visit with the Packers in March 2014 before signing with Baltimore. He had 46 receptions for 517 yards and three touchdowns in 16 starts for the Broncos last season.