The Bears made their backfield both bigger and smaller Tuesday, adding 5-6 running back Jacquizz Rodgers on a one-year contract.
The running back spent the first four seasons of his career with the Falcons, playing GM Ryan Pace’s former team, the Saints, twice a year.
He started five games in Atlanta, but served as a steady offensive weapon. Rodgers ran 305 times for 1,116 yards in his career, and caught 155 passes for 1,104 yards. His 10 career touchdowns are evenly split between catches and runs.
Rodgers returned 49 kickoffs for an average of 24 yards, and is considered an excellent pass blocker despite his size.
The 25-year-old will back up Matt Forte — who is entering the final season of his contract — and battle second-year player Ka’Deem Carey and, to a lesser extent, Senorise Perry, for carries.
Last week, coach John Fox described Forte as “a guy we’re going to lean on a lot this year.”
It would be almost impossible for the Bears to use Forte more than they did last season, when Carey was the only running back other than the veteran to receive a single carry. He only had 36, three fewer than Jay Cutler.
Fox spoke about having a series of running backs that could perform well, even as he said the team would rely on Forte.
“I do think, in a lot of positions, creating a wave, and in particular at the running back position, when you play the way the expectation level is going to be to play they’ll be guys looking for ways out at some point,” Fox said.
Rodgers has long used his short stature to his advantage, making it hard for opposition tacklers to find him behind offensive linemen.
He ran for 3,877 yards in only three seasons at Oregon State; he is one of only three players in Beavers history to total more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a career.
The Bears have signed eight players to one-year contracts — which Pace calls “prove-it”deals — in the last two weeks.