Thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus, we'll have access to their Premium Content to assist in our position by position look at the possible 2012 Chicago Bears roster. We've already broke down the quarterback position, and next up we'll stay in the offensive backfield. If the Bears truly want to expand their running prowess under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, then they'll need to get to work on this position. Starter Matt Forte is technically a free agent and questions surround the others on the roster. After the jump more details...
Matt Forte - Free Agent - Forte isn't going anywhere. I don't care who the new G.M. is, he'll have his Pro Bowl running back locked up somehow. Either via the franchise tag, which the Bears can use for the next two years, or via a long term contract. Even with the Martzfense out, and it's reliance on a pass catching back, I still think Forte will get his share of receptions. He's just too good a receiver not to. I wouldn't be surprised to see him line up more in the slot as the new O.C., whoever it ends up being, tries to take advantage of favorable match-ups.
PFF had Forte ranked as the 4th best RB in the NFL, with his 18.1 rating behind top dog Fred Jackson's 24.0. As a receiver he was tied for 3rd and his running ranked him 5th. The only negative PFF had on him was his blocking, which was tied for 50th at a not that bad -1.3. Breaking the blocking down even further, they had him for 1 sack allowed, 1 QB hit allowed, and 7 QB pressures allowed. Considering how often he's left on the field these numbers are relatively good. Surprising to me was that even with missing 4 games he finished ranked 5th in their missed tackles stat, which records the number of tackles either broken or avoided.
Tyler Clutts - Signed through 2013 - I liked seeing the Bears use a traditional fullback after a year of the H-Back experience. And I did think Clutts had a solid season, but PFF thought otherwise. They had him ranked as the worst full back in football last year. Not just the worst, but his -18.6 grade placed him below every single player that took a snap at the position. Jacob Hester graded a 64th worst -9.7, meaning that Clutts was more than double as bad as him. I'd like to say that his lack of touches hurt his grade, but it was his league worst blocking grade of -16.3 that did him in.
Marion Barber - Signed through 2012 - If it wasn't for the debacle in Denver, Barber would have had a fine season. He spelled Forte, and gave a different look to defenses, but the emergence of Kahlil Bell may signal the end for Barber. He's due $1.9 million next year with a $250,000 workout bonus and $100,000 roster bonus, so the Bears may elect to let him go before being stuck with the bonus money. PFF had him with a neutral grade for the season, slightly behind Bell.
Kahlil Bell - Restricted Free Agent - I expect Bell to return to the Bears after his play the last few weeks, but anyone that thinks Bell is just as good a player as Matt Forte is wrong. Bell is a poor man's Matt Forte, with his all around skill set a notch below what Forte has. Bell is a nice one cut runner, with better than average hands. He showed some tough running filling in for Barber the last two games, but he also showed some carelessness with the ball. PFF had him graded with a neutral 0.7 just behind the next guy...
Armando Allen - undisclosed terms - Allen will remain the property of the Bears next season if they so incline, and after his successful stint in the last two games I expect him to be back next year competing for a roster spot. After being promoted from the practice squad on December 19th he performed admirably as the #2 tailback. As I alluded to above, PFF had him graded just ahead of Bell by a .2 margin.
2012 OUTLOOK - A lot will be determined once the Forte situation is clearer. If Forte is locked up long term, then I wouldn't expect the Bears to draft a RB in any round, but if the threat of a hold out is real or if by some odd reason they decide to let him leave, then I'd expect them to take a flier on someone in the draft. They'll no doubt bring in a few kids to compete this off season, and since Robert Hughes finished the season on the practice squad he may be a camp body too.
My gut tells me that Forte will have a deal in place at some point before the season starts.
If you missed our look at the quarterback position click here. Next up on Thursday is the tight ends.