Forte on a slippery slope

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everything is trending downward for Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.

His health is a concern, he's unhappy with his contract situation and the Bears acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Michael Bush this offseason.

He's also shouldered most of the load for Chicago in his four NFL seasons, handling the ball 1,237 times (1,014 carries, 223 receptions).

Don't expect that to continue.

While the addition of Marshall to the offense may serve to open up some holes for Forte, the 6-foot-4 receiver also will take away many of the targets Forte has been accustomed to receiving with the Bears.

Primarily, Forte's value comes from his high volume of touches. He's been a true featured back, part of a dying breed in the NFL. The running back led Chicago in passing targets with 76 last season despite missing the final four games due to a sprained MCL.

Marshall knows quarterback Jay Cutler well from their Denver days, and the two clearly have a good rapport on the gridiron. In Marshall's two full seasons with the Broncos with Cutler at the helm, he caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards.

With Marshall around, it appears that Forte's days of leading the team in targets are over, and that's bad news for a player who doesn't cross the goal line very often.

In 2011, Forte had just three rushing touchdowns as Marion Barber poached six scores for Chicago. In his career, he's averaged just 7.25 total touchdowns per season.

Then there's the whole Michael Bush situation. Not only will the slice of touches be smaller for Bears running backs with Marshall in the fold, but Forte will have to split that smaller piece with a 6-foot-1, 245-pound workhorse. Healthy competition may be good for the Bears' chances of contending, but it's not very helpful in fantasy football, as the DeAngelo Williams-Jonathan Stewart time share in Carolina has shown us.

With the Raiders in 2011, Bush carried the ball 256 times for 977 yards, and chipped in 37 receptions for 418 yards. He also scored eight total touchdowns while fumbling just once. On the heels of his best season, Chicago came calling and handed Bush a $14 million contract with $7 million guaranteed. We don't expect the team to suddenly mothball the veteran, not when he's making that kind of dough.

Forte also is feeling insulted after Chicago attempted to slap the franchise tag on him. The running back refused to sign the tender and is threatening to hold out. How'd that work out last season, Chris Johnson owners?

All of these factors make it a near certainty that Forte will underperform his early Yahoo! ADP of 22.4. There are plenty of running backs being taken after Forte who make for much safer plays this season.

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, Dallas' DeMarco Murray and even Kansas City's Jamaal Charles (coming off a torn ACL) should outperform Forte this year.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at

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