Bears’ Newly Signed Veteran Puts Projected Starter on Notice

Foreman Notice Herbert

Getty D'Onta Foreman wants to be "the guy" for the Chicago Bears' backfield in 2023.

New Chicago Bears running back D’Onta Foreman has no plans to take a “back seat” to third-year standout Khalil Herbert during the 2023 season.

The Bears signed Foreman to a one-year, $3 million contract on March 16, adding an experienced piece to the running back position to help account for the loss of David Montgomery in free agency. The presumption has been that Foreman — who racked up a breakout 914 yards and five touchdowns for Carolina in 2022 — would operate as a power-rushing complement to Herbert next season, but the 26-year-old has been clear that he intends to become “the guy” for Chicago out of the backfield next season.

“I can’t really speak for the coaches and the plan that they have,” Foreman said March 17 during his introductory media availability with Bears media. “I came here to try to be the guy. I think if I didn’t come here with that mentality that I would be doing myself a disservice [and] I think I would be doing the team a disservice.

“I can help us win. I didn’t come here to take a back seat to anybody. I’m a team guy, I’m first a team guy, be able to do anything I can to help — and that’s any role that they put me in — but I think coming here with the mindset of me wanting to be the guy, wanting to be a person who can help this team and make a lot of players for this team, I know that’s my mentality. ”

Heated Backfield Competition Should Boost Bears

Competition in the backfield certainly isn’t a problem for the Bears. While Herbert has flashed starter qualities over his first two seasons with some dominant games in 2022, Foreman is coming off a career season for the Panthers in which he completely took over for their backfield after Christian McCaffrey was traded midseason. The Bears could benefit from two highly-motivated backs battling each other for carries in 2023.

Foreman also makes it sound like he is marrying the best two perspectives: He wants to compete to become the next great running back for the Chicago Bears, but he is also going to be a team player if the coaches decide a rotation with Herbert is the best approach. And frankly, there is a lot to like about the combination of Foreman — who is a bigger back at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds — and a smaller back like Herbert.

The phrase “thunder and lightning” gets thrown around a lot to describe a split backfield with different-sized backs — Herbert is 5-foot-9, 212 pounds — but it might not be the aptest description for the Bears’ top two running backs. Foreman moves a lot faster than his size and frame would dictate, as he clocked 4.45 seconds twice in his 40-yard dash runs during his 2017 pro day workouts. For reference, Foreman’s time would rank him sixth-best among rushers in the 2023 draft class ahead of Texas standout Bijan Robinson (4.46) as well as Zach Carbonnet (4.53) and Tank Bigsby (4.56).

Will Bears Add Another RB to the Mix in the Draft?

The Bears now have Foreman (on a one-year deal) and Herbert (two more years on his rookie contract) set to helm their backfield in 2023 with fellow new signing Travis Homer (a two-year, $4.5 million contract) and Trestan Ebner (2022 sixth-round pick) rounding out the depth behind them, so it would be understandable if general manager Ryan Poles decided not to further invest in the running back position in the draft.

That said, with Foreman only locked in for one season, there would be logic in the Bears scoping out a few options that could appeal to them on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.

Foreman could live up to his lofty expectations and become “the guy” for the Bears in 2023, but there is no telling whether that would become a long-term solution for them. If, for instance, he topped 1,000 yards for the Bears in 2023, he might want to re-test the free agent market next offseason and could leave Chicago either paying out the big bucks or watching him sign with another team. The same also works in the other direction as Foreman’s best season in Carolina could still turn out to be a fluke.

Both examples are just hypotheticals, but it is the type of thinking that an NFL GM must consider when building a roster for long-term success. The Bears might desire the leverage that would come with having another running back signed to a rookie contract, even if they end up wanting to keep Foreman for the long term. Poles has also not taken a big swing at the position since taking over as general manager in early 2022, and the 2023 draft could finally present him with a chance to do.

The Bears seem unlikely to be in play for some of the top backs in the draft — such as Robinson and Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs — given that other needs should take priority over the running back position in the early rounds of the draft, but the value could add up for Poles as early as the third round if he particularly likes one of the rushers.

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