INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears never made running back Matt Forte a contract offer, GM Ryan Pace said Wednesday. They met with him simply to tell him their decision to let the franchise’s second-leading rusher leave via free agency.
Pace said the team wanted Forte to know as soon as they did as a sign of respect to the eight-year veteran.
“I look at this like a lot of other great Bear players like (Charles) Tillman or (Lance) Briggs —you treat them with respect at the NFL Scouting Combine,” he said. “I think that meant handling that with urgency. And once we made the decision, telling Matt as soon as possible.”
The Bears met with Forte two weeks ago and informed him he would not return to the team, despite his desire to finish his career with them.
“We talked about it, and these are thorough, thoughtful discussions, and honestly, emotional sometimes,” Pace said. “Really it was just … again, the confidence we have in our younger backs and treating him with respect. We met with him after the season, and I promised him, ‘Hey, when we come to a decision, we’re going to tell you as soon as possible for you and your agent,’ and that’s how it played out.”
He said he believes that Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, the team’s two young running backs, are ascending players.
“Part of this a lot of times, guys, is the confidence we have in player development with our coaches,” Pace said. “That’s huge, and that’s huge for the health of a franchise is developing your younger players. Sometimes that involves some tough decisions along the way. But I am happy with those guys.”
Coach John Fox described the two young backs as a luxury that allowed them to part with Forte.
“What allowed us to make that decision, albeit a very difficult decision, was the confidence we had in our younger running backs,” he said. “I think any time a guy with Matt Forte’s reputation, what he’s been through with the organization, such a great, great pro, was for us in just the one year we had him and has been for a long time, it’s never, never an easy decision.
“But at the end of the day, I think it was best for him — the timing — and best for us.”
Forte will land on his feet, he said.
“Meeting with Matt, I don’t think Matt’s football is over,” Fox said. “I think that’s part of the reason we were pretty early and honest with him about moving forward. I think it helps him and I think Matt Forte will play more football. We wanted to give him that opportunity.”
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