Trade rumors are buzzing about St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson, who has just one postseason appearance and no winning seasons in this, his eighth NFL season. Experts have speculated several destinations, and it's worth examining what would be the four-time Pro Bowler's ideal destinations.
As Jackson approaches 30—a grave age for running backs—any perceived dip in production has to be attributed to his current supporting cast.
Given his outstanding career in spite of playing on poor teams, a new start for Jackson would be an intriguing storyline should he be moved as the Tuesday trade deadline approaches.
ESPN's Adam Schefter cites four teams as logical landing spots in a recent report:
Multiple teams have called the Rams to discuss Jackson's availability...Teams such as Arizona, Green Bay, Dallas and Pittsburgh each have dealt with injuries at the running back position and make sense as potential trade partners.
Taking those four franchises into consideration, here is a ranking of how those landing spots would suit Jackson.
Absent a viable quarterback, Jackson might walk into a worse situation should he for some reason join the Rams' NFC West rival.
A one-two punch alongside versatile Cards RB LaRod Stephens-Howling might be an interesting proposition. But even with "The Hyphen's" 100-plus-yard game in Week 7, Arizona ranks just 27th in rushing offense. The team also has what is arguably the worst offensive line in football.
The rest of the Cardinals' schedule is brutal as well. The New York Jets in Week 13 are the only remotely favorable matchup for the running game, but Rex Ryan can always throw something off-putting at whoever is under center for Arizona.
Nothing about this move really makes sense for Jackson, who has remained loyal to the St. Louis organization for so long.
It is an enticing option considering the level of talent on the Cowboys offense, but that's what also makes Dallas somewhat discouraging. The backfield is already crowded with DeMarco Murray, 2009 first-round pick Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner.
One of the latter two may be shown the door in Big D—or be shipped to the Rams, should the Cowboys emerge as the most attractive trading partner for St. Louis GM Les Snead.
With a more powerful back in Jackson, the Cowboys could center their offense around a more power-based running game. Murray and Jones don't have the strength that Jackson has to shrug off tacklers, and Jackson is a better receiver out of the backfield to boot.
Offseason acquisition Lawrence Vickers hasn't seen many snaps at fullback this season, primarily due to the plethora of skill players Dallas has in the passing game. The explosiveness of tight end Jason Witten and receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant lends itself to an unbalanced offense.
Having Jackson to hand the ball to would establish a better running game for Cowboys QB Tony Romo, and it would thus alleviate some of the scrutiny he faces from the media.
This seems like a bit of a long shot, but Jerry Jones hasn't been afraid to make unconventional moves in recent years.
A recent resurgence in a Jonathan Dwyer-led running game has allowed Pittsburgh to dominate its past two opponents physically, despite being shorthanded on defense.
Not to take anything away from the back-to-back 100-yard games the Steelers back has strung together, but imagine what Jackson could do under the same circumstances.
The emergence of Dwyer and the speed and versatility of rookie scat back Chris Rainey may make typical workhorse backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman expendable.
Jackson could start for the Steelers and be immediately productive. This Ben Roethlisberger-led offense forces safeties to drop deep in anticipation of a bomb to Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown, and this would open significant holes for Jackson.
One characteristic that makes Jackson so special is his durability, particularly given Mendenhall's recent injury troubles.
The promise of the playoffs is very high for the Steelers, too, because the AFC North has suddenly become the theirs to lose. Key injuries to the Baltimore Ravens, a perceptibly down season in Cincinnati and the typical struggles by the Cleveland Browns have the Steelers vying for their fourth division crown in six years.
Pittsburgh's running game seems to be operating just fine at the moment. But the addition of Jackson, regardless of his role, would make the backfield that much more dynamic.
If it is a championship that Jackson desires, Green Bay would be the best spot to get it done. The Packers have one of the most stacked rosters in football across the board.
A season-ending injury to Cedric Benson and a lack of production from those who have followed makes the starting job Jackson's to lose should GM Ted Thompson make a push for him.
The West Coast offense would fit Jackson's all-purpose skill set perfectly. Even though he would only likely have two-and-a-half productive seasons left, it would be worth a strong investment by Green Bay at the deadline.
QB Aaron Rodgers and the phenomenal Packers passing attack would lend itself to an unprecedented amount of space for Jackson. He would have much more room to operate between the tackles since teams wouldn't be able to stack the box.
What the Packers' scheme would also afford is frequent mismatches between Jackson and opposing linebackers. With so much of the coverage rolling to the stacked Green Bay receiving corps, Jackson would draw one-on-one situations he could easily win.
The Pack are on a roll right now and may stay pat with what they have. But looking into the possibility of acquiring Jackson certainly wouldn't hurt their chances for a second Super Bowl in three years.
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