Kahlil Bell #32 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a touchdown catch with Earl Bennett #80 against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on December18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
With the Bears officially eliminated from the playoff picture, Chicago's focus naturally turns to next season. Assuming that Matt Forte is a healthy, better-paid member of the team, will Marion Barber or Kahlil Bell be the back-up?
It's hard not to be high on Bell after he has stepped up since Forte's injury. In the last four games, his production has increased with every carry. It reached an apex with 159 yards all-purpose yards against the Packers on Sunday night. He showed an ability to work run patiently, burst through holes, and make catches to supplement the Bears' hobbled receiving corps.
"Based on what he's done his entire time here, you would feel comfortable (with Bell serving as the second tailback)," Smith said. "You know, with a lot of players you wonder, can they do it? You may be in the backup role but never played. But when you see a player in a backup role and he performs that way, you have to be excited about his future."
As a restricted free agent, the Bears will have the chance to hold onto Bell. They will have to match any offer Bell receives, but he can stay a Bear.
Bell still needs to work on his ability to hold on to the ball, considering he fumbled twice against Green Bay, but that's something that can be worked on during the off-season.
Unlike last season, Bell will have a full off-season with Bears staff. If he is the presumed number two, he'll get more attention than the number three back who gets more playing time on special teams.
Barber, on the other hand, is an expensive player who has not worked out as expected. His health and errors make him a possible one-and-done player with the Bears.