There’s a perception out there that Jordan Howard isn’t a fit for the Chicago Bears new offense. But in a world where actions speak louder than words, that appears to be over-stated. As it turns out, the Bears had an opportunity to move on from Howard before last season, but declined to do so.
While making a case for the Bears to retain Howard for the final year of his rookie contract, a source informed reporter David Haugh that the Bears turned down a third-round pick from “a team in the playoff hunt” last year. Why would the Bears do such a thing for a player who wasn’t considered a fit? Because the the team felt strongly about their own chances at the postseason (and, hey, as it turns out, they were right).
We explored the idea of trading Howard when his name appeared on the rumor mill back in October and everything there is still applicable now. It didn’t make sense for the Bears to trade away their lead back after the team was off to a 3-1 start and to simply give him away now, as the team enters its window of contention, wouldn’t make sense unless the Bears were blown away in a deal (and/or had an obvious backup plan).
Instead, we believe the Bears could stand pat with Howard, add another back in the draft who helps round out the room, then allow Howard to sign elsewhere after his rookie deal expires, which would set the team up to recoup a compensatory draft pick in 2020. It’s a win-win situation for the Bears in the short-term and also keeps the long-term view in focus.
For what it’s worth, the Bears’ faith in Howard was rewarded in the second half of the season. He averaged 3.9 yards per rush and scored six touchdowns in nine games after the trade deadline, which was a modest bump from the three scores and 3.5 yards per rush average he cooked up in the first seven games of the year. Howard was at his best down the stretch, as he gained 399 yards on 88 carries and scored four touchdowns in the final five games of the regular season. That’s a 4.5 yards per carry average that comes out to a 1,277-yard, 13-touchdown pace over the course of a 16-game season in which he is given 282 carries.
If the Bears figured out how to best use Howard in the second half and that’s the type of player Howard can be in this system, then trading him now for the sake of making a deal would be counter-productive to what the team wants to do. This isn’t to say I’ve taken a firm no-trade stance on Howard, but without draft picks in the first two rounds and minimal cap space to spend, the Bears should proceed carefully if they are going to trade Howard. That’s if they decide on doing it at all.