Steven Jackson has been a key piece of the St. Louis Rams offense for nearly a decade, making it understandable that the team is hesitant to trade him before the deadline. Moving him to a contender with an eye toward the future would be the right move, though.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated believes there's a better than even chance (55 percent) that Jackson will get traded after talking with an AFC source who believes the running back would have value to a contender despite a pricey contract.
For what it's worth, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has brushed off any rumors involving Jackson to the team website, but it's always tough to get a read on those type of comments. He could just be trying to keep the trade value up by making him seem unavailable.
A couple things are clear. Jackson is 29 and has the lowest per-carry average of his career. The Rams are in last place of the NFC West at 3-5, and are a long shot to make a playoff charge. Backup Daryl Richardson has been impressive.
That combination of factors means St. Louis should try to trade Jackson before the deadline, which is at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. He doesn't have as much value to the Rams as he would to a contender in need of a reliable rusher for the stretch.
While there's always a chance Jackson could enjoy a resurgence, history hasn't been kind to running backs once they hit 30. All the hits they have endured throughout their careers by that point usually start taking a cumulative toll.
It's especially true for a bruising back like Jackson, who has never shied away from contact during his nine-year career. He doesn't have the same extra burst that he did during his peak seasons.
At the same time, the Rams are still at least a season or two away from contending for a postseason berth. And that's if everything goes according to plan. By that point, the odds are Jackson will be even further in decline.
Keeping him around doesn't really push them any closer to contention. He's just keeping the seat warm until the coaching staff decides to turn to a younger option like Richardson.
The team's seventh-round pick from this year's draft has exceeded expectations in limited duty, averaging over five yards per carry and also making an impact in the passing game.
Looking ahead, it's only a matter of time before Richardson takes over for Jackson as the starter. If that timetable has to get accelerated because the Rams decide to trade Jackson, it shouldn't be a major issue. The Abilene Christian product looks ready.
All told, aside from the fact he's spent his entire career in St. Louis, the Rams don't really have much reason to keep Jackson. If they are able to snag a mid-round draft pick for him, it's the right move to make.