As first reported by CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, the St. Louis Rams have decided to allow Steven Jackson, their all-time leading rusher, to void the final year of his contract and become a free agent following the 2012 season.
That news has led to widespread speculation about where Jackson, who celebrates his 30th birthday in July, will call home in 2013.
A nine-year veteran, Jackson has been battered, beaten and bruised during his time as the workhorse for the Rams. He's not quite the player that he once was, but he still has plenty to offer, and there won't be a lack of interest from around the NFL in securing his services for the 2013 season.
It's all speculation at this point, but let's take a look at a number of potential landing spots that make sense for all parties involved.
Cedric Benson has been decent for the Packers this season, picking up 228 yards on 64 carries with a 3.6 yards-per-carry average and one touchdown. He's been a capable receiver out of the backfield, catching 12 of the 13 passes Aaron Rodgers has thrown his way for 76 yards.
Both backs are 29 years old, and while Benson doesn't have as much wear and tear on his body as Jackson does, he's never been as prolific a runner—or pass-catcher—as Jackson is.
With the Packers' pass-happy offense, Jackson would be an upgrade as a receiver out of the backfield. And he'd give coach Mike McCarthy a bruising runner who can pick up the tough yards in short-yardage situations, not needing to try and bounce outside in order to move the ball past the line of scrimmage.
Another pass-first team, New England has no shortage of running backs, with Brandon Boldin, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead. Not to mention the presence of former Florida Gators back and Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, who won't suit up for the team until next season.
But you can't help but look at the possibility of adding Jackson to New England's backfield and not see Corey Dillon, who enjoyed a career resurgence with the Patriots from 2004 though 2007 after he signed with the team as a 30-year-old.
The Patriots aren't going to drastically alter their game plan when it comes to the running game, but with the opposition needing to dedicate multiple defenders to covering tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Jackson could thrive in the Patriots offense.
The Jets cannot run the ball. They rank 24th in the NFL, averaging 86.5 yards per game on the ground. And it's clear that Shonn Greene is not the answer to their problem.
Jackson would be an immediate upgrade over the backs that the Jets currently have on their roster, giving Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or whoever is under center for the team a legitimate check-down option out of the backfield.
More importantly, he would allow Gang Green to implement the ground-and-pound style of play that they espoused was making its return prior to the 2012 season.
Rashard Mendenhall is coming off of a major knee injury and is set to become a free agent following the season.
Should the Steelers decide to let their incumbent back—primarily an East-West runner who relies on quick cuts and elusiveness—walk, Jackson could be a short-term solution for the Black and Gold, giving them the bruising running back who has been the staple of Steelers teams for decades.
St. Louis Rams
It's entirely possible that the Rams' decision to allow Jackson to opt out of his current deal is salary-cap related. Jackson is set to make $7 million next season, and the Rams may simply be looking to bring him back on a deal that doesn't carry such a lofty cap hit.
Jackson has never hidden his love for the city of St. Louis and the organization, reiterating both to Fox Sports' Andrew Astleford after the Rams' 17-3 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night:
It's part of the business. I've said that from the beginning that, even in 2004, I wanted to retire here.
This organization gave me the opportunity to live out a dream. In 2008, they extended me and at the end of the season we'll see what happens with me. But something is happening here, and I want to be a part of it.