When the Tennessee Titans released former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson last week, there was a flurry of reports on which teams would be interested in signing Johnson. One team that was missing from most lists was the Chicago Bears, though they would be an ideal place for Johnson to land.
The Bears only have two running backs on their roster as of right now, Pro Bowler Matt Forte and second year backup Michael Ford. While Forte is widely accepted as one of the best RBs in the league, Ford has zero carries in an NFL regular season game. The Bears are expected to compete for the NFC championship this year and without a quality backup behind Forte, the team could be setting themselves up for a big letdown.
Enter Johnson. After amassing only 1,077 yards and six touchdowns last season for the struggling Titans, the team released Johnson late last week, almost a month into free agency. While plenty of teams have shown interest in Johnson, he is not expected to draw elite player type money after his lackluster season. It would make sense for Johnson to sign somewhere on a short-term deal for less money and improve his stock for free agency in 2015.
Johnson would benefit greatly from playing with the Bears’ offense, which was the No. 2 rated offense in the NFL last season. With a solid offensive line and possibly the best passing attack in the league, Johnson would not have to carry the load of the full offense as he was forced to do in Tennessee.
If he is able to put together a solid season, he could enter free agency in 2015 as the top-rated free agent running back and command a larger salary than he is going to be offered this year.
The benefit for the Bears is obvious; by adding another Pro Bowl-caliber player to an already impressive offensive unit, the Bears would be an obvious Super Bowl contender. Now, if this were to play out, the team would only have Johnson for one year, though that might be enough. With their star players nearing the end of their prime years, this team is built to win now.
Will Phil Emery pull another stealth operation and go after Johnson as he did with Jared Allen? Bears fans can only hope so.