Thomas rebounded from a horrible sophomore season to rush for 1,024 yards and average 4.2 yards per carry, despite missing three games and being underutilized in at least a couple others. The Bears can win with Thomas as their featured runner, but he will never be anything special and is not a big-play threat.
If the Bears truly plan on running a version of the Rams/Chiefs offense then whoever the running back is going to have to be a viable option coming out of the backfield as a receiver.
Thomas has 55 receptions in three seasons. He's coming off a 9-reception campaign and his career-high came in 2002 when he caught 24 balls.
All this adds up to the Bears seriously considering using their first-round pick, which is 14th overall, to select a running back. Both Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones and Steven Jackson of Oregon State would be upgrades in both speed and playmaking ability, but there is a good chance they'll be gone by the time the Bears are on the clock.
The most viable candidates in the free agent market are restricted meaning that their club will have a chance to match the offer or receive draft choice compensation. The top unrestricted options are Kevin Faulk and Duce Staley. Faulk has never been an every down back but can definitely catch the ball. While Staley is a more versatile option than Faulk, but he's not a major improvement over Thomas. Not to mention Staley's best days may be behind him as he'll be 29 when the season starts.
As pedestrian as Thomas may be, he's far superior to anyone else on the roster, which is devoid of breakaway threats or of runners who can catch the ball effectively and play on every down. Thomas' backups are seriously lacking as complete backs.
Pritchett is a capable pass catcher and an adequate runner for a fullback, but he isn't a great blocker. He's an unrestricted free agent and the chances of him returning are 50-50 at best.
Peterson missed the last 10 games of the season with a sprained ankle, calling into question his toughness. He was given a chance early on to share playing time with Thomas, but that competition never materialized.
Forsey is a try-hard guy who lacks size and speed, but he had a 134-yard rushing day against the Cardinals when Thomas and Peterson were hurt.
Abdullah is strictly a special-teams guy, although the Bears tried to sell him as a third-down option, which he isn't. He also had off the field issues, which is something that Jerry Angelo has repeatedly said comes into play when putting together a roster.
The Insiders contributed to this report.