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Jets to sign Matt Forte to replace Chris Ivory, report says

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte rushes

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte rushes against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field. Credit: AP / Nam Y. Huh

The Jets may have lost Chris Ivory, but they wound up finding a running back to replace him.

ESPN was first to report Wednesday that the organization has a deal in place for former Bear Matt Forte. The Jets are expected to make a formal announcement in the coming days.

Forte, 30, will reunite with former teammate Brandon Marshall and Rex Hogan, the Jets’ director of college scouting who served as a longtime scout in Chicago.

“I Wuv you!!!! @MattForte22,” Marshall posted on social media, along with a photo of him and Forte in Bears uniforms.

In recent days, the Jets’ No. 1 receiver also expressed love for his quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who officially became a free agent Wednesday. After reported Monday that the Jets and Fitzpatrick were “far apart” on a new contract, Marshall posted a video using teddy bears to simulate a Fitzpatrick-to-Marshall “Harvard 80!” touchdown.

By Wednesday evening, however, Denver had emerged as a possible destination for the 33-year-old Fitzpatrick. Former backup Brock Osweiler reportedly agreed to a four-year, $72- million deal with the Texans, leaving the Broncos in need of a starting quarterback, with Fitzpatrick, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and free agent Robert Griffin III being the most viable options left.

Fitzpatrick, who had a career year with 31 touchdown passes, likely is using the deals given to Osweiler (who has the same agent) and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford (two years, $36 million) to drive up his own asking price. But the Jets are on a budget.

The sting of losing Ivory, the 2015 AFC rushing champion, was softened greatly by the news that Forte was headed to the Jets. Forte, who played his entire eight-year career with the Bears, has a lot of miles on him. But he’s still a physical, productive back who can be an asset to the Jets at least for the next two seasons.

Forte has rushed for more than 1,000 yards five times and missed only eight games. He ran for 8,602 yards with 45 touchdowns and caught 487 passes for 4,116 yards and 19 scores. He caught a career-high 102 passes in 2014 and 44 passes in 2015, equaling his career low.

The Jets also are trying to retain No. 2 running back Bilal Powell, but they have competition. The Patriots and Broncos are among the teams that reportedly have expressed interest in Powell.

Ivory is expected to sign a five-season deal with the Jaguars worth a reported $32 million, which includes $10 million fully guaranteed. Former Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison jumped to the Giants. He reportedly agreed to a five-year, $46.25-million deal that includes $24 million guaranteed.

The Jets officially released receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jeff Cumberland. The cuts will save $1.3 million and $1.9 million, respectively, in salary-cap money, although the Jets will absorb a $1.8-million dead money cap hit for Kerley.

He signed a four-year, $16-million extension in 2014, but Kerley’s role was greatly diminished in Chan Gailey’s new system. Cumberland was the Jets’ starting tight end in recent years, but his production and blocking left much to be desired. Last season he caught five passes (on 14 targets) for 77 yards and no touchdowns.

“It was a fun 6 years w/ the Jets & my teammates,” Cumberland wrote on Twitter. “Thank u to the organization for the opportunity. Appreciate #JetsNation for your support.”


Position: Running back

Height/Weight: 6-1/221

Age: 30

College: Tulane

Drafted: Chicago, 2nd round (44th overall), 2008

Career Stats

Seasons: 8

Games: 120

Yards Rushing: 8,602

Avg. Gain: 4.2

Rushing TDs: 45

Receptions: 487

Yards Receiving: 4,116

Avg. Gain: 8.5

Receiving TDs: 19

2015 Stats

Games: 13

Rushing Yards: 898

Avg. Gain: 4.1

Receptions: 44

Receiving Yards: 389

Total TDs: 7

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