Rams running back Steven Jackson carries the ball against the Seahawks, Dec. 30. Jackson voided the final year of his contract, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Jackson is scheduled to make $7 million in 2013, and according to the Post-Dispatch, the Rams can’t afford to dish out that kind of money to him.
The move makes sense. Jackson has been in the NFL for nine years—all with the Rams—and will turn 30 this summer. It also allows Jackson to test the free-agent market for the first time in his career—a gentlemanly move by the Rams. According to the Post-Dispatch, Jackson has said he wants to play for a championship team.
There are some notable free-agent running backs on the market, including Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Shonn Greene, Felix Jones and Cedric Benson, to name a few. And by the looks of it, Atlanta plans to release Michael Turner, who is scheduled to make $6.9 million in 2013, according to ESPN.com.
Bradshaw, 26, has spent his entire six-year career with the Giants, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2010 and 2012. Bush, 27, spent five seasons in New Orleans before spending the next two with Miami. In 2011, Bush amassed 1,086 yards and six touchdowns with the Dolphins.
Greene, 27, was taken in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Jets and has rushed for over 1,000 yards the past two seasons. Jones, 25, has spent his five-year career in Dallas, and rushed for a career-high 800 yards in 2010. Benson, 30, has pin-balled around the league, spending stints with Chicago, Cincinnati and Green Bay. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards three times in his career.
With Jackson now a free agent, the impact on the market will make it more competitive than before. Super Bowl contenders looking to add a veteran running back to the mix will certainly draw interest in Jackson’s services.
Among them is Atlanta, who was one win away from reaching the Super Bowl last season. The Falcons have made the playoffs each of the last three seasons, but have failed to make it to the Super Bowl. Signing Jackson is realistic, even if he’s only got a few years left in the tank.
Last October, the Green Bay Packers showed interest in Jackson near the trade deadline, according to ESPN.com. The Packers lack a bruising running back, and could be a potential suitor for Jackson.
No matter the route Jackson takes, teams including the Rams will now be competing for arguably the best running back on the market in the coming weeks.