Free agency is always good for a spate of surprises regardless of how distinguished (or not) the guest list is. So reading between the lines or peeking behind the curtain on some of the moves so far is more than a little intriguing:
The Bears told Forte last month that they would be continuing their Super Bowl quest without him. Not a complete surprise after the Bears politely declined his offer to restructure his 2015 contract into something more cap-friendly. The reason there was that restructures involve added years and the Bears clearly weren’t thinking past this contract.
But Forte also found out this week that quite a few other NFL teams didn’t disagree with the Bears’ take on one of the truly great running backs in the history of the NFL’s charter franchise.
Forte landed with the New York Jets as free agency officially opened, filling a void created when running back Chris Ivory left the Jets for the Jacksonville Jaguars and $32.5 million over five years.
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Which is curious. Forte opted for a team that has an unsettled quarterback situation, Ryan Fitzpatrick haggling over a new deal with them. The Miami Dolphins, who lost running back Lamar Miller to Houston, were in talks with Forte, but the tailback did not follow coach Adam Gase south.
Nor did he listen to former teammate Julius Peppers on the merits of the Green Bay Packers, who have a Hall of Fame quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and a too-fat running back (Eddie Lacy). New England Patriots? Never happened, and now Forte will play against Bill Belichick and that bunch twice a year.
Whether there was real Forte love in Green Bay is vague, but for Forte, the choice of the Jets had to involve more than just wanting to play with Brandon Marshall again. (That’s a joke, by the way. Forte gigged Marshall last August for No. 15 not holding himself accountable sometimes, as Marshall criticized Jay Cutler).
Since he’s now on the Bears’ 2016 schedule – Chicago plays at Houston this year – the Texans’ grab of Osweiler for $72 million over four years becomes relevant. And curious.
For one thing, there are zero Hall of Fame quarterbacks with names beginning with the letter “O.” (That’s another joke, by the way. But it’s actually true.)
But the Texans popped for the $18-million-per deal on a quarterback with precisely seven NFL starts. If this sounds vaguely familiar, the Detroit Lions once signed a quarterback named Scott Mitchell in the first year of free agency (1993), the hot QB name after starting exactly seven games (3-4 W-L mark) in relief of Dan Marino with the Miami Dolphins.
The Denver Broncos were 5-2 in Osweiler starts last season, more a testament to the NFL’s best defense than a quarterback who couldn’t hold onto the job over Peyton Manning in the latter’s diminished condition.
But the fact that the Broncos did not think enough of Osweiler to lock him up says something between the lines. The Bears, who lost a close game to Osweiler’s team last season, will get another shot at him later this year.