The highest-profile target of the Green Bay Packers in free agency so far has been running back Matt Forte. Earlier this week, we at Acme Packing Company had discussed reports that suggested Forte's maximum contract would be around $3 million per year, and that this price would make him a fairly appealing target.
Of course, on Wednesday Forte signed with the New York Jets instead, and now we know the basic terms of his contract:
The details on Matt Forte's deal with the Jets: 3 years for $12 million with $8M guaranteed. Additional $4M in escalators. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 10, 2016
First of all, it would be tough to imagine the Packers committing to a three-year deal with Forte this season. A two-year contract would seem to be reasonable, but that third year (when Forte will be 32 years old) is a bit of a stretch.
Forte's total contract value being $4 million per year is also giving us pause, as is the structure of those incentives. With fellow 30-year-old James Starks likely to command only half that price and come with a much smaller career workload, Ted Thompson could very well be better off by re-signing Starks, saving two million bucks or so, and putting that cash towards re-signing someone like Nick Perry.
Also, keep in mind the Steven Jackson situation that took place three years ago. After flirting with the Packers, Jackson - also 30 years old at the time - signed with the Falcons on a deal that was written, coincidentally, for three years and $12 million (though it had $4 million guaranteed, half of what Forte is receiving). He struggled mightily over two seasons in Atlanta, averaging 3.5 and 3.7 yards per carry, and was cut before the 2015 season with one year left on that contract. The Packers, of course, drafted Eddie Lacy a few months later and got two straight 1,100-yard rushing seasons out of him on a rookie deal that paid him about $2 million total in those two seasons and $3.4 million total for four years.
All told, the Packers still have Lacy in the fold for one more year - and by all accounts, he appears to be taking the offseason seriously as an opportunity to get in better shape. If Green Bay can retain a backup like Starks on the cheap and supplement those two veterans with a rookie in the draft, the running back unit should still be in solid shape for 2016.