So much for the wishful thinking of Michael Bush returning to the Bay, that was always a pipe dream. The free agent running back and now former Raider has signed a four-year contract with the Chicago Bears. According to reports the contract is valued at $14-million with half of that cash in the so-called “guaranteed” category.
This deal hardly qualifies as a breaking the bank but it is a significant raise for Bush. Believe it or not, Bush actually did very well for himself relative to other contracts signed by free agent runners.
These days the position of running back just isn’t valued like it once was. Aside from getting paid, Bush was also looking for a chance to become a fulltime starter. Currently the Bears boast of one of the games more versatile runners in Matt Forte. Of course he too is looking to get top dollar.
Chicago is clearly hedging their bets by bringing in Bush knowing Forte could walk away in the coming year. For Bush this is a bit of a calculated gamble. For all intents and purposes Bush is in the same situation he was behind Darren McFadden. Only difference is he’s getting better compensation for playing behind a premier runner this time around.
For the Raiders this cannot be viewed as anything but a major loss. Sure, Reggie McKenzie gets to reinvest a little more cash in other areas of need but his roster is now thinner. Bush was as valuable to the Raiders recent resurgence as any other player on the roster.
There is no arguing McFadden is among the most dangerous weapons in the game…when healthy. However Bush has been highly productive when given the opportunity. Last season was his best as a pro. Bush nearly eclipsed the 1,000 barrier, had a record getting game against the Chargers and single handedly carried Oakland’s ground game in the absence of McFadden.
When coming out of college Michael Bush had first round talent that was devalued due to a broken leg that robbed him of a potential run at a Heisman. The Raiders, better yet Al Davis, were willing to roll the dice on Bush taking him the 4th round and paying him for an entire year of rehab. Davis saw a handsome return on his investment but never fully committed to Bush.
Last year the Raiders had an opportunity to give Bush a long-term deal. That never happened. The league ruled that Bush’s first year in the NFL didn’t count towards his seniority thus he was not allowed to become an unrestricted free agent. Davis took advantage of the loophole placing the highest contract tender on Bush. Reluctantly Bush reported to camp, clearly disappointed, yet he was nothing but a model pro.
Replacing Bush is going to be difficult. He was a bruising runner that was amazingly light on his feet. He also has very good hands and is dangerous on screen passes.
But as Hue Jackson would say, “Next man up”. Taiwan Jones is next on the depth chart. He’s capable of being a dynamic playmaker but he’s nowhere near as effective in pass protection as McFadden or Bush. That is a very important yet rarely discussed duty of all NFL running backs. Oakland could look to draft a bigger back for short yardage situations as well.
For this Raider fan it is disappointing to see Bush depart. I couldn’t have been happier when Oakland drafted him knowing that if healthy the Raiders got a steal. When he finally started getting touches you saw his talent and knew he could easily be a 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL. But the reality is the position of running back is brutal and thankless. No matter the talent, every NFL runner has a ticking clock. Hence the new approach taken by NFL teams in both usage and pay given out to running backs.
I’d like to thank Bush for representing the silver and black with class, leaving it all on the field and above all else helping this team to just win, baby! From his astounding performance in Tampa that helped run Chucky out of the NFL to his amazing destruction of the Bolts, I’m happy to have seen Bush at his best.