I love Steven Jackson. He’s one of my favorite running backs in the NFL and has amazed countless defenses, coaches and fans not only with his outstanding play but also with his heroic ability to play through the various injuries he has accumulated over the years.
Unfortunately, Time waits for no man.
In many of the discussions and mocks related to the NFL draft, we hear constantly of the Rams wish to obtain Trent Richardson. We also hear them linked to other prominent running backs in the second round with Doug Martin, Lamar Miller and David Wilson all mentioned as possibilities for one of the Rams two first round picks.
I am certain of one thing in regards to St Louis – they will draft a running back with one of their three top 40 picks. For Steven Jackson, this means he is likely on the trading block or the chopping block?
Could a player as heralded and talented as Steven Jackson possibly be cut? It sounds absurd when you look at it on face value but look deeper and you’ll find it’s a distinct possibility.
First of all, look at his contract. He has two years left and each year is owed $7 million. That’s a rather large number for an oft injured running back and is also a rather big number when the team has another very capable running back on the roster should the Rams indeed draft a running back high. In his contract, there is options for the team to cut him either this year or next with no money paid. This not only makes it very easy to cut him but also makes him very tradable as any team that trades for him will know they have the option to cut him at any time.
Next you look at his injury history. It is well documented that Jackson has had multiple injuries over the years that have held him out of games and also there have been injuries that he has played through. Jackson is as big an injury risk as any player in the NFL at this time. His talent at running back gives him terrific value but his injury history means that he is a luxury for team who desperately needs to fill holes in other areas.
Another thing to look at is what Jackson is worth. On the trade market, Jackson still has solid value despite his large contract and injury history and this is largely because of both years of his current contract being voidable. This is one of those players that would make a lot of sense to a team that has cap space, has a relatively good lineup but needs a spark from the running back position.
Who might be interested in Jackson should he be available? In terms of trade partners, the most obvious team to look at would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite paying big money to free agents this offseason, they still have some cap room left and would like to acquire another running back after LaGarrette Blount was found wanting in 2011. If they could get Steven Jackson this would free them from looking at Richardson at the top of the draft and could instead focus on Morris Claiborne as their primary option. Other possible trade partners include the New England Patriots, New York Jets and possibly the Cleveland Browns if a deal were done to trade up to #4 in the draft.
If Jackson were cut instead of traded, the number of suitors for him instantly expands. There are plenty of teams that will say no based on Jackson’s cap number but if he were on the market with no contract then teams could try and make a contract that suits their cap situation. This brings the Browns firmly into play as well as the Cowboys, Giants, Broncos, Chargers, Lions and Colts.
In my opinion, I want to see Steven Jackson remain in St Louis and retire as a Ram. He has been a great player for many years and at times has carried this team on his back when there has been little to no help around him. Ultimately, the NFL is a business and in business not everyone necessarily gets what they deserve. Jackson may deserve to stay with St Louis but in reality that may no longer make sense for the Rams.
If Steven Jackson were to begin the 2012 NFL season on another team, I will not be surprised and now neither will you — because You Heard It Here First.