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Matt Forte Won't Return To Bears

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) Bears general manager Ryan Pace made a tough decision this week, informing running back Matt Forte, one of the greatest players in franchise history, that his time in Chicago has come to an end.

Forte issued a statement through his Instagram page on Friday morning.

"Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end," Forte said. "I was informed earlier this week from the GM that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency. I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history. My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I'm excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home. God Bless and Bear Down!"

Emma: Matt Forte exemplified pure class, dedication during Bears career

"We recently met with Matt to inform him we will not extend a contract offer for the 2016 season," Pace said in a statement. "These decisions are never easy, especially given what Matt has meant to our team and community. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Matt is one of the all-time great Bears and did an excellent job for us on and off the field last season. He was a tremendous teammate. We thank him for his professionalism and wish him the very best as he continues his career."

Forte turned 30 in December and will be a free agent in March. He rushed for 898 yards and caught 44 passes for 389 yards, compiling seven touchdowns in 13 games last season.

When Forte suffered an MCL sprain in November, rookie Jeremy Langford got his chance to fill Forte's void, forming a tandem with second-year back Ka'Deem Carey. In his first season, Langford rushed for 537 yards and six touchdowns, while showing his versatility in the passing game by catching 22 passes for 279 yards.

In 2015, Forte took on a mentoring role for Langford and the Bears' young players. While it became apparent that Langford could be the team's running back of the future, Forte was still there to offer guidance.

"Really, play every game like it's your last," Langford said in reflection of his year with Forte. "Don't take the NFL for granted. You never know what could happen."

When Pace came to Chicago last January, he expressed a desire to build the Bears on his own. Contract negotiations with Forte fell through prior to the season, and despite Forte's productive season, the team decided to go in a different direction.

Forte has expressed his desire to play at least two more seasons and perhaps four. His goal out of the draft in 2008 was to play a 10-year career.

Teams to watch for Forte's services include the Packers, Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and more.

Forte compiled 8,602 rushing yards and 12,718 all-purpose yards, both second to only Walter Payton in Bears history.

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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