One of the biggest storylines of the offseason for the Chicago Bears is what they’re going to do at running back.
Chicago was hoping for a “thunder and lightning” combination between Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and while Howard was able to improve as a receiver, his performance was very inconsistent throughout the season.
Howard seemed to be more involved during the back end of the season, but he only had two games where he rushed for over 100 yards. He was primarily used in short-yardage situations and near the goal line, as he was able to amass a respectable nine rushing touchdowns throughout the season.
While Cohen has incredible big play potential, he only had 444 rushing yards on 99 carries. He was much more of a receiver than a running back, and while that is a valuable asset, he will never be a true three-down back in the NFL.
Bears Fans want a solution and now that Kareem Hunt has been signed by the Cleveland Browns, the answer appears to be through the draft. While the Bears may be able to find a replacement for Howard in the late rounds of the draft, it isn’t necessary next year.
Even though Howard isn’t nearly as productive as the Bears would have liked, he showed flashes of what he could be in this offense. In the 12 games Howard carried the ball at least 13 times, he scored eight touchdowns and averaged 70 yards per game, which is identical to his average in 2017 where he rushed for 1,122 total yards.
The problem doesn’t appear to be that he can’t be used in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, it’s that he is inconsistently being used in the system. When he gets the ball more, he’s statistically better and becomes the compliment needed for Cohen.
He’s under contract for one more season and his trade value wouldn’t be much, and while they may be able to find another player in the draft that can be a suitable replacement in the draft, they should wait to address that after his contract is up.
With the likely impending exit of Bryce Callahan or Adrian Amos, the Bears will possibly need to find two defensive starters in the offseason. Adding Howard to the list of needed replacements doesn’t seem necessary for a team that isn’t currently swimming in cap space.
This isn’t even mentioning how minuscule the value of a running back has become in the NFL.
Below is the leading rusher of recent Super Bowl winners.
The best season from the most five recent Super Bowl winners would be LeGarrette Blount in 2016, where he ran for 1161 yards for the Patriots.
If Howard averaged 70 yards per game over the course of the season, he would end up with 1,120 yards, which we all know he’s capable of doing. Obviously, these Super Bowl winners had other weapons that made each team dangerous, but it’s not like every team that won a Super Bowl had a top-tier running back.
While having an elite running back wouldn’t hurt the Bears, to classify it as a “need” this offseason isn’t accurate.
The Bears can choose to take a risk and take a running back in the late rounds of the draft or they could see what Howard can do in Nagy’s offense in his contract year. The latter would be the safest and likely the best option financially.