You don’t have to step out your front door or even look outside your window to know that spring is around the corner. Baseball talk and spring training tales are filling timelines. Bracketology majors are brushing up ahead of college basketball’s biggest month.
And Jordan Howard trade rumors have emerged.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports lists Howard among the players reportedly on the trade block, as he checks in from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Howard is joined by Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes, Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor, and Chiefs pass-rusher Justin Houston – an intriguing cast of trade prospects, who could upgrade any number of teams, no doubt. But for the moment, let’s discuss Howard. After all, we’re no strangers to seeing his name being thrown into the rumor mill.
Indeed, Howard was viewed as a possible trade chip in a rumored Jarvis Landry swap with the Dolphins around this time last year, before reports surfaced that the team had “zero desire” to trade the two-time 1,000-yard rusher. In October, Howard’s name popped up as a “sleeper” trade target for the Eagles. Shortly after that, questions regarding Howard’s long-term fit with the team surfaced. And now here we are with another round of Howard-related trade rumors. Time is a flat circle and whatnot.
But despite my better judgement and memory, there is some logic for this latest set of rumors. After all, Howard is entering the final year of his rookie deal and it’s going to be a bit more expensive than originally projected. Remember: Howard was set to make $720,000 in what was to be the final year of his rookie deal, but he hit an escalator clause that pushed that number up by a projected $1.315 million. And as we noted in our recent exploration of ideas to create cap space, the Bears could save a little more than $2 million by dealing Howard. That’s not an insignificant number for a team trying to squeeze every penny out of a tight cap situation.
But Howard’s trade value at this point is uncertain at best. He’s coming off a “down” year when compared to the lofty standard set in his first two seasons. He rushed for 935 yards and scored nine touchdowns and his yards per carry dipped to 3.7 (marking a second consecutive year of diminished production on a per-rush basis). Howard’s role in the grand scheme of the offense diminished in 2018, too.
Things started off well enough with Head Coach Matt Nagy expressing belief in Howard as a three-down back during training camp, but they didn’t play out that way at the start of the year. Instead, Nagy had to insist there was a “big-time” role for Howard in the future and send out reassurances that he’d remain a key cog in the offense down the stretch/during the colder months. To be fair, Howard was a bigger piece of the offense in December, earning FedEx Ground Player of the Week honors for his showing against the Vikings in Week 17, but his diminished role and impact was still plenty apparent.
Like the great teammate that he is, Howard was at peace with trading individual statistical achievements for team success – and that type of selfless attitude embodied what the Bears were all about last year – but it’s at least smart strategy to see what else is out there. The game and offense is changing, and the Bears are in the thick of a competitive window. For however much we love Howard, everything needs to be on the table.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.