Updated March 22, 2012 @ 5:07 p.m. ET
The Bears beefed up their backfield Thursday, agreeing to terms with RB Michael Bush on a four-year contract.
Reports indicate the ex-Raider's contract is worth $14 million, with $7 million guaranteed.
Bush, who turns 28 in June, was drafted by the Raiders in 2007 and he rushed for a career-high 977 yards on 256 carries (3.8 average) in 2011. He also set career highs in receiving, making 37 catches for 418 yards (11.3 average) and a touchdown.
Bush has a career average of 4.2 yards per carry.
He started nine games for Oakland last season but will serve as the complement for Matt Forté with the Bears. Bush could get a shot to become the primary back if the Bears do not keep Forté, who has yet to sign his franchise tender, beyond next season.
The way we see it
The Bears have spent a significant chunk of money over the past three seasons in trying to find a capable complement for Forté. It didn't work out with Chester Taylor, and it appears likely that Marion Barber will be released following the addition of Bush.
Chicago also tendered restricted free agent Kahlil Bell. He has not signed his tender, and teams have until April 20 to sign him to an offer sheet. If Bell returns and Forté doesn't hold out, the Bears will have solid depth at the position next season.
The Bears also could use the addition of Bush as leverage in their negotiations on a long-term deal with Forté. At every level of the organization, the Bears have consistently said that they want Forté in the fold in ’12 and beyond.
Michael Bush did everything he had to after suffering a devastating broken leg while at Louisville that destroyed his NFL draft value. After proving himself fantasy owners were salivating at his potential as a No. 1 fantasy back. Disappointment is sure to follow as he has agreed to terms with the Bears for $14 million with $7 million guaranteed.
The Bears not only strengthen their depth but are preparing themselves if Matt Forté doesn't sign his contract after getting the franchise tag, and he could hold out. However, if Forté doesn't hold out he will be the No. 1 back with Bush spelling him with about 8-12 touches per game. That's not enough to make fantasy owners happy, including Forté owners.
At 6-1, 245 pounds, Bush is the perfect goal-line and short-yardage specialist and that will dramatically hurt the value of Forté. Last season, Forté had four only total TDs in 12 games, which fell far short based on elite expectations. Last year, Marion Barber vultured five TDs from Forté and you should expect the same in 2012 with Bush. However, unlike Barber, Bush has soft hands so he could spell Forté on some passing plays as well. While not much more, it will further devalue Forté.
Last year, Bush had two seasons. The first six games, he totaled 43-138-3 rushing and 7-99-0 on eight targets — an average of 8.3 utilizations for 39.5 yards from scrimmage and 0.5 TDs. He had career-highs in rushing and receiving yards and matched his career high in total TDs.
Once Darren McFadden went down with a foot injury early in Week Seven, Bush totaled 213-839-4 rushing and 29-319-1 on 39 targets in the next 10 games — an average of 24.2 utilizations 115.8 yards from scrimmage and 0.5 TDs.
As you can see, he made a big jump in production but he won't see that potential in Chicago sharing time with not only Forté but also Kahlil Bell. Tendered a $1.26 million contract, Bell hasn't signed his contract but in a soft market for backs he probably will not find any takers and will re-sign with the team. He probably will get a handful of touches at best but when you're already sharing time with another back, a third back, even for a few carries or receptions, hurts.
Look at Forté as a No. 2 fantasy back unless you're in a PPR (point-per-reception) league, as he's one of the best dual-threat backs in the league. Bush becomes the necessary handcuff and will be a week-to-week matchup play depending on how he gets used. He could see enough touches and goal-line opportunities to be an injury or bye-week fill-in. Bell loses all his value unless Forté or Bush goes down with an injury. Barber will be released after a disastrous season that saw him lose a game to the Bears and struggle to hold on to the ball. In fact, the only player who gains from this signing is Darren McFadden in Oakland.