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Take 2: What to do with Matt Forte now?

In this week’s Take 2, the Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley and Chicago Football’s Arthur Arkush debate what Jeremy Langford’s success Monday means for Matt Forte’s future with the Bears:

PATRICK FINLEY: Arthur, we learned Monday night that the best man to replace Matt Forte is actually two of them: Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. The former was the star, while the latter, who actually started after not touching the ball all season, reminded us how no mere mortal can handle Forte’s workload. My question for you: what did we learn about the Bears’ ability to adapt to new running backs? And what does that mean for Forte, a free agent after the season?

ARTHUR ARKUSH: Pat, wasn’t that nice of Adam Gase to make us rue writing Langford would get his first start? Carey picked up a key first down on Chicago’s final drive, but it was one of just two second- half carries. This is Langford’s show – and what a debut it was, albeit against the NFL’s worst run ‘D.’

We already knew about the chameleon Gase’s adaptability; we might’ve learned more about Ryan Pace’s mid-round drafting. Langford looks like a feature back – which doesn’t look great for Forte’s chances of remaining a Bear in 2016. But we should probably wait to see what the rookie does against big bad St. Louis and Denver before preparing his Hall bust, right?

FINLEY: That would probably be prudent, yes. Langford looks like a keeper thus far, but Matt Forte is one of the great modern Bears. What if they could be paired together? Forte is notoriously stubborn when it comes to playing time, but he’s 29. What if Langford actually helped extend his career? While I try to reorganize my cart and horse, I wonder: Is that an insane thought?

ARKUSH: It’s a nice thought, but if Langford is ready to shine now — at a bargain, fourth-rounder salary — and Forte is looking for one last lucrative multi-year pact, Pace could opt to allocate his funds to rebuilding the defense. No disrespect intended to Forte, who showed before his injury he might be the rare example of a 30-year-old back worth that commitment. Where things might get a tad uncomfortable is if the Bears begin evening the workloads between the two once Forte is healthy. Again, we’re not there yet, but isn’t that at least a possibility?

FINLEY: Sure. But I don’t think it’s likely. When Forte returns later this season — I don’t think it will be Sunday — there’s no reason to think his knee injury alone will limit his snaps. Before he got hurt, he’d played 367 of 439 snaps, or 84 percent of the time. And remember, in the previous two seasons, only one other running back even earned a carry. I could see Forte not rushing back, knowing the Bears are in good hands. But once he’s back, he won’t be a part-timer. Forte is the most respected player in the Bears’ locker room; if he gets stiffed by management, it will ruffle every other player on the roster. When it comes time to negotiate, though, don’t you think the Bears will be more than happy to point out others’ success in their system this season?

ARKUSH: I think your point about Forte’s clout in the locker room is valid, but guess who else is a highly respected locker room leader? Jermon Bushrod, now a backup. This shouldn’t be interpreted as me trying to accelerate the beginning of the end for Forte in a Bears uniform; I just think they recognize the need to find out just how much leverage they have at the table with Forte by learning what they have in Langford. And, yes, they certainly gain leverage by backs other than Forte succeeding in Gase’s system. You know what would throw a wrench in that idea? Gase leaving. I smell another Take-2 topic.