At this point, it might as well be a timeless tradition to discuss the Bears trading Jordan Howard in early March. Last year, it was noted that Chicago had a plan in place to trade the burly runner for then Dolphins wide out Jarvis Landry. Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Bears had a variety of trade discussions concerning Howard at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of Bears fans cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Schefter’s tweet in itself has a lot to unpack:
Multiple teams approached the Chicago Bears at the combine last week and discussed a potential trade for RB Jordan Howard, per league sources. Discussions ongoing.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 7, 2019
It’s no secret the Bears don’t view Howard as an ideal fit in Matt Nagy’s offense. The fourth-year pro had by far his worst season in 2018 and has a bruising physical style of which doesn’t age well in the modern NFL. They’d like to get more dynamic and less predictable on offense. Part of that directive means finding someone more multi-faceted than Howard. A good number of tailbacks in the upcoming draft — such as Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill and Memphis’ Tony Pollard — fit Nagy’s offensive versatile bill.
Howard’s case of staying in Chicago long-term isn’t helped by the fact that he’s entering the last year of a rookie contract. How many running backs that played just 58 percent of their team’s snaps get re-signed to comfortable terms after the fact? The NFL has turned the position into a replaceable meat grinder in recent years, so it doesn’t behoove an organization to invest too much into any individual runner. Factor in pending possible extensions for Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, and Leonard Floyd in the next couple of years and you don’t have a palatable recipe for retaining Howard. You can’t reward everyone appropriately as not everyone is a core irreplaceable player.
What Schefter’s tweet can be individually and logically surmised as is the Bears using a major league insider for leverage. The Bears are clearly actively trying to salvage some quality value for Howard before eventually letting him walk next off-season and don’t like the offers they’ve received so far. Naturally, it’s time to kick the situation into high gear and feed information to a scoop artist to up the ante and streamline the process.
This could be seen as a last ditch effort that ultimately amounts to nothing for the Bears. When you’re forced to publicly tweet about ongoing negotiations, you risk imploding whatever leverage you had together. However, it doesn’t hurt to try and put a more aggressive feeler out and see what happens. Attaining a mid-round draft pick for a player like Howard that you don’t plan to keep around is a roster-building victory. While the Bears may not think Howard fits their new offense, all it takes is one team to believe otherwise. A relatively useful back of his style still has a place somewhere in the NFL.
Whatever does happen with Howard over the next seven weeks — a draft trade may look feasible but not likely — it’s evident his days of patiently carrying out zone runs in the Chicago backfield are on their last legs. Whatever does happen, please don’t compare letting him go — a running back you can find in every draft — to once trading away an All-Pro tight end like Greg Olsen for pennies. A ludicrous comparison at every level.
The contending Bears want to get faster and more explosive on offense. The fact that an influential information guru is acting as a public mouthpiece in regards to a trade of Howard speaks volumes as to him not fitting in Chicago’s offensive vision.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network (subscribe here!), the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.