Bears Ryan Pace, John Fox confident moving away from Forte, but hope to keep Jeffery
INDIANAPOLIS – At this time in the NFL Calendar it’s more about goodbye than hello.
With the free agent period still a few weeks away and the draft a few months, the talk at the moment is all about those players who will be with a different team than they were in 2015.
That was certainly the case for the Bears who said farewell to one of the faces of their franchise in February. The team announced that they wouldn’t be offering a new contract to running back Matt Forte, ending his eight-year run with the franchise in which he ended up becoming the second-leading rusher in Bears history.
It was this goodbye that was top of mind for reporters when talking to head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace for the first time since January 4th on Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The question of why was quickly floated to both at the podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
“When I met with him after the season I promised him when we come to a decision, we’re going to tell you as soon as possible for you and your agent,” said Pace of the decision process of not bringing Forte back. “And that’s how it played out.”
Helping out the Bears decision not to sign the 30-year old running back was the emergence of rookie Jeremy Langford and second-year running back Ka'Deem Carey during the 2015 season. With viable and cost-effective replacements immediately available, it cleared the way for the Bears to part ways with Forte.
"What allowed us to make that decision, albeit a very difficult decision, was the confidence we had in our younger backs," said Fox. "Anytime you have a guy of Forte's reputation, what he's meant to the organization, he's such a great, great pro and was for us in just the one year we were there and had been for a very long time.
"So those are never easy decisions but at the end of the day I think it was best for him, the timing, and it was best for us."
But what about Alshon Jeffery?
The receiver is a free agent and the Bears have the option to use the franchise tag on him over the next week to retain him. It would seem like an easy decision considering Jeffery's status as the team's number one receiver but an injury-riddled 2015 season that cost him six games could be lingering in the Bears' head as free agency approaches.
As he did earlier this year, Pace once again expressed a desire to sign Jeffery to a long-term deal but didn't rule out the tag option.
"We understand that Tuesday is the deadline for the franchise tag. That's an option. We have until Tuesday to make that decision so right now that is ongoing," said Pace of Jeffery.
But could the receiver, who had 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns in nine games last season, test the free agent market?
"I sense he wants to be here," said Pace of Jeffery. "We're the team that drafted him, he loves the city of Chicago and he's comfortable in the offense and I sense that he wants to be here."
The Bears probably do too. They've had enough goodbyes for one month at Halas Hall.