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Bears

Hub Arkush: Bears can't afford to trade Jordan Howard right now

Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) rushes for a touchdown as Buffalo Bills' Jordan Poyer tries to stop him during the first half of a game Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) rushes for a touchdown as Buffalo Bills' Jordan Poyer tries to stop him during the first half of a game Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

I don’t know about you guys, but I for one believe Bears Nation has wasted more than enough time on “What should the Bears do about Jordan Howard?”

So why am I writing about the Bears’ beleaguered No. 1 running back again?

If you’re a Bears fan, you’ve heard that Adam Schefter tweeted Thursday that multiple teams approached the Bears about trading for Howard at the NFL Scouting Combine.
I know when it comes to the hot stove league, Twitter and Bears buzz in general, a fair number of folks get their undies in a bunch when I suggest we may want to add a few actual facts or known realities to the conversation.

But if you’re really serious about focusing on how the Bears get better other than assuming Le’Veon Bell signs with the Bears for the veteran minimum because it would make you really happy, you might want to take a step back here.

For my money, Schefter is the absolute best at what he does; I have zero doubt his report is accurate.

But he reported that a number of teams approached the Bears. Has he written that the Bears are looking for buyers, negotiating deals or soliciting offers for Howard?

The only thing his report makes clear is that “a number of teams” are apparently anxious to acquire Howard.

If he is so easily disposable to the Bears, who currently have no one to replace him, why do all these other teams want him?

I am not suggesting the Bears can’t win or get better if they don’t keep Howard. No one has begun work on his bust for Canton.

But to deal him with no assets in hand with which to replace him practically requires a death wish.

If memory serves me, the last time the Bears made a move like that was with Robbie Gould.

That’s worked out well, hasn’t it?

Here’s what Matt Nagy said about his ground game and Howard last week.

“I think what you saw with Jordan was when people talk about Jordan, and I get asked the questions on Jordan, you see with our identity as an offense, it’s just not an offense where you’re gonna get 25-30 carries necessarily all the time,” Nagy said.

“We were all figuring out together, including Jordan, how we’re going to make this thing go. And he wasn’t the only one. Our other running backs, too, you guys could see that as we went.”

That is certainly not a ringing endorsement of Howard, but it’s clearly not an indictment either.

What we need to know before the Bears start playing musical running backs: are they looking for a three-down back who will get 25-30 touches a game, which Nagy says isn’t likely? Or are they hoping for a two-headed monster such as Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans with Tarik Cohen as a receiver and third-down RB specialist?
If it’s the latter, which Nagy seems to suggest it is, Howard is actually as good or a better fit for that role than Ingram.

It is also possible Nagy and Pace think Ryan Nall, who spent last season on the practice squad, could play the Ingram role, but Howard has been a Pro Bowler and Nall has yet to play in an NFL game.

There are no backs under 30 in free agency – other than Bell – that have had as good of NFL careers as Howard, and exactly what are the odds that any back they take in the third round or possibly with a day-three pick is going to be a better football player than Howard?

It is quite possible the Bears can be a better team this year without Jordan Howard, but to force yourself into that position before his replacement has done something on the football field to earn that chance, or you even know who he is, is really a fool’s errand.

Howard is a really good back who isn’t a great fit in this offense.

Got it.

But what sense does dealing him make until you’re sure you have a better fit for your 12-4 football team that can’t afford a step backwards?

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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