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Dolphins free agency plans 2016: Should Matt Forte be on the radar?

The Miami Dolphins could lose starting running back Lamar Miller in free agency this year. Could the team look to Matt Forte as a replacement?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins heading into an offseason when they could lose starting running back Lamar Miller in free agency. Miller, a fourth-round draft-pick by the Dolphins in 2012, has rushed for 2,930 yards with 19 touchdowns and a 4.6 yards per carry average in his four year career. He has started nearly every game for the Dolphins in the past three years, and he has clearly established himself as the top option in the running game for the South Florida franchise.

The problem has been, the Dolphins have not used the running game like they should have been using it. Miller only reached 872 yards rushing in 2015, but he was only asked to carry the ball 194 times, with most of those carries only coming in the first half of each game.

Now, Miller is heading into the offseason with an expiring contract, meaning on March 9, he will officially be able to sign with any team in the league - and Miller is expected to be in demand.

If the Dolphins are unable to re-sign Miller, and with the team also looking to re-sign defensive end Olivier Vernon it is possible (maybe probable), they are going to be in need of a new starting running back. The team could trust second-year running Jay Ajayi to take over the top spot, but there is an intriguing option who could be on Miami's radar.

Chicago Bears star running back Matt Forte will not be re-signed by the Windy City franchise. Could Miami take a look at a running back entering his ninth season? Forte has run for 8,602 yards in his career with 45 touchdowns and a 4.2 yards per carry average. He has proven himself as a receiving threat out of the backfield, which could be critical if quarterback Ryan Tannehill is to get back on track after a plateaued season.

Forte will turn 31 during the season, so he is closing in on the end of his career. Would a one- or two-year contract make sense for the Dolphins? For Forte? Would re-uniting with his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is now the Dolphins' head coach, interest Forte?

The biggest question, of course, will come down to money. If the Dolphins are willing to shell out big dollars for a running back, they may as well keep Miller rather than betting on an older running back. Forte's expiring contract was a 4-year, $30.4 million deal, averaging $7.6 million a year. His salary cap number in 2015 was $9.2 million with a $7 million base salary. That kind of money likely will not be on the table for a running back in the 31-year-old range,

Forte saw his career high in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns in 2013, which included his second career Pro Bowl selection. He had his career low in rushing yards, 898, in 2015. He could be in the decline that typically comes as a running back surpasses 30, or he could have just had a slightly-off season. Forte still runs like a starting running back, and he could absolutely assist the Dolphins' offense.

Last offseason, a 31-year-old Frank Gore signed a free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts giving him $12 million ($6.5 million guaranteed) over three-years. Would Forte consider a similar deal at this point in his career?

Should Miami keep Forte on their radar for a replacement if Miller does leave?