3 Potential Trade Destinations for Matt Forte
New Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace went to work on the team's roster earlier this week that quickly sent a message to the organization: we're officially in rebuilding mode.
Pace sent five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro defensive end Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick before shipping linebacker Jon Bostic to the New England Patriots in a separate trade.
With what looks to be an early season fire sale, the obvious question on everyone's mind is who's next?
Well, if the team is trying to flip older talent for draft picks, then the natural conclusion is that starting tailback Matt Forte.
Forte enters his age-29 season in a contract year, and with the veteran Pro Bowl tailback looking for a big pay day or perhaps hoping to join a contender in the final years of his career (or both), it would make sense that the Bears would be fielding any and all offers for Forte. It also helps that Chicago already has a backup plan in place should they ship their starting running back to a new location; third-round rookie Jeremy Langford, who this regime personally handpicked, stands poised to step up into a larger role.
As the league'e second leading rusher with 276 yards on the ground through the season's first three games, it's obvious that Forte is still an elite back with a lot left to offer.
So if he is moved, where would he fit in best?
1. Denver Broncos (3-0)
Sitting at a 3-0 record, with Peyton Manning rounding back into elite form, and with perhaps the best defense this team has fielded in years (they currently sit as the second most efficient defense according to our strength-adjusted advanced metrics), the Broncos are in full blown win-now mode as the window on the Manning era in Denver begins to close.
The only thing holding them back? Their running game.
Running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have been more than disappointing for the Denver Broncos. Currently, the team sits as the least efficient team in the running game with Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt of -0.21. Anderson and Hillman themselves sit at a -0.32 and -0.03, respectively, with the former playing like a shell of his 2014 self as he deals with a turf toe injury sustained earlier this year. Contrast this with Forte, who has been highly effective on the ground with a top-20 Rushing NEP per attempt of 0.06.
For those unfamiliar, NEP is our signature metric here at numberFire. If you contribute to your team's chances of scoring above expectation, you receive a positive NEP; you receive a negative score when you do the opposite.
If Forte finds himself on the Broncos, his contributions to the run game would not only give this team an added weapon on offense but would also take pressure off Manning and the passing game.
The only wrinkle is this plan is the presence of head coach John Fox on the Bears and whether he would give the okay to make a trade with Denver, the same team that fired him after giving them four straight winning seasons, including 46 total regular season wins, 4 playoff berths, and a Super Bowl appearance.
2. Baltimore Ravens (0-3)
For how much of a surprise Justin Forsett was for the Ravens last season, he's arguably been as big a disappointment for them this season. Currently, Forsett's Rushing NEP per attempt sits at -0.08, which is far below the hisotrical average of -0.03 for all tailbacks over the last 15 seasons. This has led to Forsett accumulating fewer yards on the ground through 3 games this season (124) than Forte collected in Week 1 alone (141).
Trading for Forte would reunite Trestman with a talented tailback that flourished in his system, with Forte producing an above-average 0.02 and 0.01 Rushing NEP per attempt in 2013 and 2014, respectively and totals of 2,377 yards on the ground, 1,402 yards in the air, and 22 total touchdowns in those two seasons.
While some argue that Forsett's down season is due to a lack of weapons in the passing game, allowing defenses to stack eight or more men in the box against the Ravens offense, with Forte's impressive pass catching abilities (he owns a career 76.6% catch rate) he could be just what the doctor ordered as an added receiving threat in the short-to-intermediate game.
3. New York Jets (2-1)
The motivation for the Jets to trade for Forte is less about the ability of their lead back as much as it is about his availability.
Starting tailback Chris Ivory owns an above-average 0.04 Rushing NEP per attempt on his 34 carries which ranks him just behind Forte in rushing efficiency this season. However, Ivory has also dealt with a number of ailments this season, including a leg injury that limited him in a Week 2 win against the Colsts and kept him off the field of a Week 3 loss against the Eagles.
While Bilal Powell has been serviceable in the passing game, he's been less than impressive running the football, with a -0.08 Rushing NEP per play and 32.3% Success Rate (which measures the percentage of plays in which a given athlete produced a positive NEP) ranking him near the bottom-half of all tailbacks with at least 15 carries.
Pairing Forte and his ability to churn out positive plays on the ground and in the air with the team's impressive defense -- which ranks as the third most efficient defense in the league according to our strength-adjusted advanced metrics, including ranking fifth against the pass and first against the run -- could be a recipe for success the team could ride to a double-digit win total this season.