LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Matt Forte won’t be returning to the Chicago Bears for a ninth season.
The two-time Pro Bowl running back announced on Instagram Friday morning that the team informed him this week it will not offer him a contract for next season. The Bears confirmed it, with general manager Ryan Pace calling him one of the "all-time great Bears."
Forte will be an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team beginning March 9.
Drafted in the second round by the Bears in 2008, he emerged as one of the most successful running backs in franchise history. But he is 30 years old and the team has a long list of needs after finishing last in the NFC North at 6-10.
Despite the losing record, the Bears believe they took a big step forward in their first season under Pace and coach John Fox. Forte had expressed a desire to re-sign, but the team is moving on without him.
"I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history," Forte wrote. "My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I’m excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home. God Bless and Bear Down!"
It has already been a rather busy off-season for the Bears, with offensive co-ordinator Adam Gase taking the Miami head coaching job and Dowell Loggains being promoted from quarterbacks coach to replace him. The club has plenty of work ahead considering about one-third of the roster had expiring contracts, with Forte and No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery topping the list.
Forte ranks second in franchise history to Hall of Famer Walter Payton in yards rushing (8,602), receptions (487), yards from scrimmage (12,718), 100-yard rushing games (24) and games with 150 yards or more from scrimmage (25). His 64 touchdowns (45 rushing, 19 receiving) rank third behind Payton and Neal Anderson.
In 2014, Forte set the NFL’s single-season record for receptions by a running back with 102.
Last season, he ran for 898 yards and four touchdowns while catching 44 passes for 389 yards and three more scores while splitting time with Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. He also missed three games due to a knee injury but has been mostly durable during his career, playing in all 16 games in five seasons.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for him," Pace said. "Matt is one of the all-time great Bears and did an excellent job for us on and off the field last season. He was a tremendous teammate. We thank him for his professionalism and wish him the very best as he continues his career."