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Monday, June 20, 2011
Chester Taylor's future with the Bears

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

In his latest Scouts Eye analysis Insider, Matt Williamson ranked NFC North running backs. You'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire post, but his decision to rank the Chicago Bears third among our four teams points to a secondary issue that we haven't bantered around much during the offseason.

Namely: How certain are we that Chester Taylor will return as the primary backup to Matt Forte?

Williamson's ranking was based largely on the players behind Forte on the depth chart. Taylor, as we've pointed out, was the NFL's first post-merger running back to average less than 2.4 yards per carry on at least 100 carries in 2010. Williamson termed the acquisition "a colossal flop."

I think Taylor provided the Bears some nuanced help in 2010, especially in short-yardage. But let's face it: When a 31-year-old running back rushes for 267 yards on 112 carries, as Taylor did last season, it's at least worth questioning his future with the team. The Bears have two other running backs on their roster, Kahlil Bell and Harvey Unga, who might provide younger (and cheaper) alternatives.

To be clear, if the Bears had already decided to move on, they would have released Taylor before the lockout as they did with defensive tackle Tommie Harris. But they really had no incentive to part ways with Taylor in February. Taylor received more than half of his $12.5 million deal in 2010 compensation. He's due a relatively affordable $1.275 million in 2011, a decent price for a veteran backup that the Bears could still avoid paying if they released him after training camp.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemed incredulous when asked about Taylor's future in March, telling Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Why would he get cut? Why would that happen? It wouldn't make any sense, would it? We're pleased with him. We're very pleased with him. He really played well, especially in the last few games."

It makes sense to bring Taylor to training camp. Should he make the team? I'm not sure that's an easy answer.