A number of wild theories began circulating in the moments after the Chicago Bears announced a four-year contract agreement with running back Michael Bush. So let's do our best to sift through what the deal does -- and, just as importantly, doesn't -- mean.
Bush is the Bears' best attempt yet at finding a reliable backup to starter Matt Forte, one whose skills offer the team more complete coverage from the position. We've noted several times that Forte doesn't perform well in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations. Last season, Bush scored seven touchdowns for the Oakland Raiders on goal-to-go downs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Chester Taylor failed as Forte's backup in 2010, and Marion Barber (2011) figures to follow him out the door shortly.
Bush got a nice contract that could top out at $14 million and includes $7 million guaranteed. That's better than backup money, but Bush is better than your standard backup. He started 19 games in four seasons with the Raiders.
That money suggests the Bears felt they needed protection against a possible holdout from Forte, who hasn't agreed to a long-term deal and hasn't signed his franchise tender. We're a long way from that point, but midsummer is not the time to start scrambling for insurance. The best options are available now.
Some of you might think Forte would be annoyed to see a third consecutive veteran walk through the door with a multiyear contract while he awaits one himself. It's true that Taylor ($7 million) earned more than him in 2010, as did Barber ($2.5m) in 2011. This year, Bush's $7 million guarantee is close to the $7.74 million franchise tag that Forte will play under if he doesn't agree to a longer deal. But I think the Bears are willing to pay Forte more than his backup. Whether they are willing to pay him what he wants is another question.
Regardless, I don't think Bush's arrival will make Forte any more or less likely to hold out. He has a number he wants the Bears to get to. Will it make the Bears less likely to meet that number because they have Bush? They might want Forte to think so, but ultimately they know they need Forte in their lineup.
When you hear the name "Michael Bush," many of you think of the terrible broken leg he suffered in 2006 as a senior at Louisville. The injury required the insertion of a steel rod and essentially cost him two years of football. But since returning to the field in 2008, he has played in 61 out of a possible 64 games.
The Brandon Marshall trade will define the Bears' offseason, but no less impressive has been their determination to beef up depth with highly paid veterans. Bush is the most notable example, but it's worth pointing out that backup quarterback Jason Campbell will earn $3.4 million, while kick returner Eric Weems got a $1.5 million signing bonus on top of a $700,000 base salary.