Jets sign running backs Forte, Robinson, re-sign Powell
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets’ backfield makeover is in motion.
The Jets announced Thursday night that they signed free-agent running backs Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson. A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that the Jets also agreed in principle to re-sign running back Bilal Powell.
Financial terms weren’t immediately disclosed, but it is a three-year deal for Forte and one year for Robinson. As for Powell, it’s also a three-year contract, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Jets had not announced the signing.
The team announced earlier in the day that it re-signed backup tight end Zach Sudfeld (one year) and tendered a one-year offer worth $1.671 million to restricted free agent wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
After spending his first eight NFL seasons in Chicago, Forte comes to the Jets on a three-year deal and will likely replace the departed Chris Ivory as the starter. Forte, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, ranks second in Bears history to Hall of Famer Walter Payton in several categories, including yards rushing, receptions and yards from scrimmage.
His 64 touchdowns (45 rushing, 19 receiving) rank third behind Payton and Neal Anderson. Forte also set the NFL’s single-season record for receptions by a running back with 102 in 2014.
In an Instagram post early Friday morning, Forte said he was excited “to play for yet another legendary organization.” He added that the team’s “passionate” fans and the culture being instilled by coach Todd Bowles “were a huge draw” for him to sign with the Jets. Forte also posted a retouched photo of himself running with the football in Jets green and white.
“I hope to bring a championship home,” Forte wrote, “as well as a rushing title Like one of your greats, Curtis Martin. @nyjets J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!”
Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall — acquired by New York from Chicago last offseason — posted a picture of himself and Forte on the turf during their Bears days on Instagram on Wednesday when the sides reached an agreement. Marshall also posted “I Wuv You!!!!” and urged Jets fans to “follow your new WorkHorse.”
Forte is 30, though — considered an age of decline for NFL running backs — and the Bears chose not to offer him a contract. With the Jets, it appears Forte won’t need to carry the bulk of the workload with both Robinson and Powell also on board.
While Ivory, who signed with Jacksonville, was a physical presence, Forte gives New York a more dangerous pass-catching threat out of the backfield. His 12,718 all-purpose yards since he entered the league in 2008 lead the NFL during that span.
He missed three games with a knee injury last season, but still ran for 898 yards and four touchdowns, and caught 44 passes for 389 yards and three TDs while splitting time with Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey.
Robinson is a strong and versatile back coming off a broken leg suffered last November against the Giants.
He was a restricted free agent, but the Saints opted to not extend him an offer, making him a free agent.
“Another ones trash, is another mans whaaaa??!” Robinson posted on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon.
Robinson, 26, has rushed for 766 yards and eight TDs in three seasons, and caught 25 passes for 178 yards with New Orleans. He was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M in 2013.
Powell set a career high with 47 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns last season, while finishing with 313 yards rushing and a TD as the backup to Ivory. A fourth-round draft pick out of Louisville in 2011, the 27-year-old Powell has rushed for 1,609 yards and seven TDs and caught 112 passes for 899 yards and two scores in five seasons. He has never lost a fumble.
He missed four games in the middle of last season with a high ankle sprain, but was a key part of the Jets’ playoff push.
During New York’s late-season five-game winning streak, Powell caught 27 passes for 232 yards and two scores and also ran for 162 yards on 28 carries while complementing Ivory. A sore ankle sidelined him in the season-ending loss to Buffalo.
Sudfeld missed last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during minicamp last June. He has 10 career catches for 148 yards and established himself as a solid special teams player, leading the Jets in kick coverage tackles in 2014.
Thompkins had 17 catches for 165 yards in seven games last season after signing in October. New York has the right of first refusal if another team offers Thompkins a deal that equals or is greater than $1.671 million. The Jets would also receive no compensation if he signs elsewhere.
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