At career crossroads, Bears RB D’Onta Foreman believes he can run with NFL’s best

Foreman felt he proved last season he’s among the most talented running backs in the NFL and has high expectations with the Bears. “I didn’t come here to take a backseat to anybody,” he said.

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A photo of Bears running back D’Onta Foreman running with the ball when he played for the Panthers last season.

Foreman rushed for a career-high 914 yards and five touchdowns last season with the Panthers.

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There’s still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to new Bears running back D’Onta Foreman, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He remains undefined as a player, and, at just 26, he might still be on his way up.

Foreman was largely written off by the NFL after injuries derailed his career as a rookie, and even after rushing for a career-high 914 yards and five touchdowns with the Panthers last season, there was a tepid market for him in free agency. The Bears were able to get him on a one-year deal for $3 million.

The Bears don’t need Foreman to be a star. They just need him to be solid in a rushing attack that already features Khalil Herbert and quarterback Justin Fields.

That certainly isn’t his mindset, though.

“I came here to try to be the guy,” he said at his introductory news conference. “If I didn’t come here with that mentality, I would be doing myself a disservice. . . . I didn’t come here to take a back seat to anybody.”

Regardless of what role Foreman takes under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, there’s good reason to believe he can contribute. At his best, he can give the Bears what they lost when David Montgomery left in free agency.

Foreman’s problem is that he rarely has been at his best because he rarely has been healthy since reaching the NFL as a third-round pick from Texas in 2017.

His career went off track when he tore his Achilles as a rookie with the Texans, and he played only one game the next season. When he finally got going again and signed with the Colts in 2019, he tore his biceps and missed all of that season.

Last season with the Panthers was the first time Foreman played more than 10 games. He played every game, actually, and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. If he can produce something similar this season, he’s a steal for the Bears.

He did most of that as the Panthers’ primary running back after they traded All-Pro Christian McCaffrey six games into the season. After the trade, Foreman averaged 79.7 rushing yards per game and topped 100 five times in 11 games.

“I had the opportunity to be the guy and take over,” Foreman said. “It was great for me. I was able to reinsert myself and open some eyes as to what I bring to the table and how good I can truly be.

“That was just my perfect moment to show people I can play just as good as some of the best people in the league. I’m right there with those guys, and I’m just trying to continue to prove that.”

Foreman fits the profile of general manager Ryan Poles’ other signings this offseason — a potentially ascending player still in his mid-20s. That’s the right idea for a team that’s still rebuilding. It’s also much more sensible than matching the Lions’ three-year, $18 million offer to Montgomery in an era when running back is the most interchangeable position in the game.

The Bears still likely will explore running backs in the late rounds of the draft, but it looks like the plan is to have Herbert spearhead the rushing attack with Foreman sharing the load. They’re hoping those two can play well enough to eliminate the need for Fields to rush for 1,000 yards again.

It’s unpredictable at this point, but that seems reasonable. Foreman just showed he’s far from washed up, which makes this much different than taking a shot on a player at the end of his career just hoping to squeeze out one more good season. There’s substantial upside with Foreman, and if the Bears are going to take risks, that’s exactly the type of risk that makes sense.

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