The New York Jets might be trying to keep up with their AFC East rival Buffalo Bills in the fire sale competition. Now, veteran running back Matt Forte could be the next aging player on the chopping block for Gang Green.
The Jets have reportedly gauged the trade market for Forte’s services now that he is fully healthy after dealing with a hamstring injury throughout the early portion of training camp, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Pelissero’s report could explain why the Jets gave Forte almost every snap of the first half during their third preseason game Saturday night. Forte, whom the Jets signed to a three-year deal last offseason, carried the ball 10 times for 43 yards and caught two passes Saturday against the Giants. It appears the Jets were putting Forte on showcase for the rest of the league.
Forte, 31, could still serve as a useful weapon out of the backfield for a team in contention. He got off to a strong start during his debut campaign with New York. But ex-offensive coordinator Chan Gailey inexplicably wore him down and Forte finished with 813 rushing yards, 30 receptions and 8 total touchdowns in 2016.
Bilal Powell would inherit a featured role if Forte was traded. Powell, 29, might be the better player at this point, but he was destined for a committee role with Forte this season. Powell rushed for 722 yards and 3 touchdowns while hauling in 58 passes for 388 yards and 2 scores last season. Rookie Elijah McGuire also would likely see an enhanced role after serving as a starter during the early part of preseason action when Powell and Forte were both sidelined by injuries.
Forte is one of the greatest receiving running backs in NFL history and showed plenty of burst on his carries last weekend. However, the Jets might have a hard time convincing a trade partner to take on his $4 million salary for 2017. Forte’s dead cap number of $6 million might have been one of the primary reasons Forte was spared during GM Mike Maccagnan’s offseason purge of practically every valuable veteran.
The most intriguing race in the AFC East will be the one to the bottom, as both the Jets and Bills are more worried about the 2018 NFL Draft than any game in 2017. Funny enough, the Jets and Bills will kickoff the season against each other at New Era Field in a game that surely neither front office wants to win.
Forte won’t be the only player put on the trade block this year. Defensive end Sheldon Richardson has been shopped around more than a Michael Kors purse and could be dealt if he starts the 2017 campaign strong. Pelissero also reports the Jets have cornerback Marcus Williams, but it’s tough to imagine what sort of trade value Williams carries besides a late-round pick.