Steven Jackson is the best choice to replace Michael Turner in the Falcons offense for the 2013 season. He would give the Falcons a cheaper alternative who would also be an upgrade.
Michael Turner is currently counting $8.9 million towards Atlanta's cap in 2013. By cutting him, they would save $6.9 million towards 2013's cap. The Falcons have been rumored to make this cut already (h/t Adam Schefter).
It's already a logical move due to Turner's falloff. Backs who run for 800 yards are not worth contracts that pay them $6.9 million in a base salary for a season. Especially when they are poor fits for an offense that is based around an all-around back.
That's where Steven Jackson can come in. After voiding his deal, Jackson should be looking to play for a contender. The Jackson and Atlanta pairing seems to be a very logical one according to Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports (h/t Sulia.com):
To piggyback on @jthom1 report on Jackson, his likely landing spot seems to be Atlanta based on what was happening at the NFL scouting combine.
The Falcons and Jackson both want the same thing at this point—a Super Bowl title. Jackson could also be a piece that would allow Atlanta to bring back All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Jackson is an all-around featured back who can block—allowed just six hurries in 79 pass blocks this season— while providing the power run game and receiving out of the backfield.
He also can do more with less on the offensive line. While Michael Turner was able to get just 800 yards on 225 carries (3.56 yards per carry), Steven Jackson earned 1,042 yards on the ground and had just 32 more carries than Turner at 257 for a 4.05 yards per carry average.
This was all done with the offensive line in St. Louis that had nine different starters and multiple different alignments. Atlanta was completely different. They had a total of six starters on the offensive line all year—the only change being when Peter Konz took over at right guard after the bye week.
Add in his receiving additions to the offense, and the Falcons will have one of the more versatile units in the league. Jackson has had over 300 yards and 38 catches in almost every season of his career—the only exceptions being 2004 and 2007.
On the field, the signing of Steven Jackson should be a no-brainer for the Falcons. At this point, it's all about the cap. Saving $6.9 million from cutting Michael Turner can be re-allocated towards a combination of players.
If structured properly, that $6.9 million could account for a first-year cap hit of Steven Jackson of around $3 million and a cap hit for either Sam Baker, William Moore or even Brent Grimes on a longer term-deal for around $4 million.
If Atlanta can manipulate the cap to its advantage, bring in Steven Jackson and still retain all of the current big-name free agents like Brent Grimes, William Moore and Sam Baker, they will be leading contenders for the Super Bowl.
Factor in draft versatility, and it's an even better move. Bringing in Jackson would allow Atlanta to take someone like Knile Davis or Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round and work them into the offense slowly.
It would also give them a chance to see what Jacquizz Rodgers can do long term. He had a mini-breakout in 2012, but could really shine as a feature back long term if given a chance. However, Atlanta still seems to want a slightly bigger back, but only if that guy can do it all.
All in all, this is the best move for Atlanta to make for the running back situation. Both short and long term.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.