The Chicago Bears announced today the team has agreed to terms on a four-year contract with former Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush. The deal is worth $14 million overall, with $7 million guaranteed.
Bush joins the Bears after playing four seasons for the Raiders (2008-11) where he rushed 632 times for 2,642 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns. The 6-1, 245-pounder out of Louisville had his most productive pro season in 2011, setting career highs in attempts (256), yards (977), touchdowns (7), receptions (37), receiving yards (418) and starts (9) while playing in all 16 games.
The former fourth-round pick (100th overall) entered the NFL in 2007 and spent his entire rookie season rehabbing a leg injury, which he suffered during his final collegiate season.
RB Michael Bush
Bush visited Halas Hall last week. Since then, the only other NFL team he met with was the Cincinnati Bengals, who chose yesterday to sign BenJarvus Green-Ellis over Bush.
Reportedly, four to five other teams were interested in Bush, including the Seattle Seahawks. Yet he never visited any of those clubs, choosing instead to sign with Chicago.
This is a curious move on both sides. Bush is starter material and comes into a situation where he’ll be expected to play a backup role.
On the other side, the Bears placed a $7.7-franchise tag on Matt Forte and last week tendered restricted free agent Kahlil Bell. The club has a lot of money already invested in the running back position and now must absorb Bush’s contract as well.
The team will be able to clear up about $2 million in cap space when they cut Marion Barber, who is obviously not in their future plans.
The Bears will head into 2012 with arguably its deepest running back group in the past 20 years … assuming Forte doesn’t hold out.
Forte’s current situation likely facilitated this deal. His agent has been negotiating with the Bears on a contract extension for a year now. Progress is not being made. Forte said the franchise tag does not make him happy and has not ruled out the possibility of holding out. That could have played a large part in the team’s thought process behind signing Bush, who could fill as the starter if Forte sits and pouts.
And if a long-term deal can’t be reached and Forte hits free agency in 2013, at least the team will have Bush to replace him.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.