The Chicago Bears made a major trade Thursday night trading starting running back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles for a future draft pick. NFL Insider Adam Schefter was the first to break the news as the Bears received a 2020 sixth-round pick that can turn into a fifth rounder if conditions are met in return for Howard. The trade is questionable as it shows just how much the team wanted to trade the former Pro-Bowler.
Howard never really fit in head coach Matt Nagy’s offensive system and his performance reflected that. 2018 was career low in rushing yards and rushing attempts for the Bears starter. There were times in the season where he wasn’t used at all recording seven games of 14 or fewer carries. Nagy preferred running back Tarik Cohen who was more of a pass-catching threat as the offense utilizes running backs more as pass catchers.
Trading Howard for a future conditional draft pick shows just how much the team was willing to move on from him. Although the team failed to move him at the start of the league year, there was still a strong possibility he would be traded during draft weekend. Many believed that the Bears could have gotten a draft pick for this year’s draft, whether be a third-round pick or a seventh-round pick.
This wasn’t a trade the team needed to make.
Although not the best production, Howard still produced when the team needed him. In the final four games of the season, he had three games of 19 carries or more, rushed for 100 yards twice, and scored four touchdowns. He may not have been Nagy’s ideal running back, but Nagy could have found a place for Howard in the 2019 offense.
The organization could have also decided to keep Howard as he did provide value as a power running back. He was good for 20+ carries per game and could be a closer late in the game with a lead. With Howard gone, newly signed Mike Davis could fill the role but is highly unproven. In two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, he has recorded just one 100 yard rushing game and one game of 20 or more carries.
With the team in a Super Bowl window, losing a back like Howard could be costly, especially this season. Although not a big-play back, he still provided value from a ball control standpoint and as a grinder. If Mitchell Trubisky and the passing game struggles, do the Bears have a running back to lead them on a touchdown drive?
Furthermore, a reliable running game is needed against offenses such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, and New Orleans Saints this season.
It is now likely that the Bears will either draft a running back in this year’s draft or sign one of the remaining free agent running backs. Drafting a running back with mid to late round picks may be risky, but general manager Ryan Pace has been successful as he did draft Howard in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
One possible free agent option could be running back T.J. Yeldon who proved to be both a power running back and a quality pass catcher during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears plan to fill the void that they chose to create Thursday night. Howard and the offense might not have been the best fit, but there was no need to trade him as fast as they without a running back in place to fill his role.
With every move critical for the Bears Super Bowl aspirations, the trade of Howard for what they got in return may be a questionable one.