Assessing Steven Jackson's Value on the Open Market

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Assessing Steven Jackson's Value on the Open Market
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

It's not often in the National Football League that a player walks away from $7 million, but that's exactly what running back Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams is set to do.

The nine-year pro, who gained 1,042 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns in 2012, will void the final year of his contract and become a free agent on March 12th, according to Jim Thomas of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

That means that for the first time in Jackson's NFL career, he will test the open market, and there should be no shortage of suitors for his services.

The reasons for that are fairly obvious.

Jackson may have been toiling on bad teams in St. Louis for the past several seasons, but he's been very effective in doing so. In fact, last year was the eighth consecutive season that Jackson has topped the 1,000-yard barrier.

Jackson has also been a very effective receiver throughout his career. Over the same eight-year stretch, in which Jackson has topped 1,000 yards on the ground, he has also averaged over 48 catches per season, chipping in nearly 400 more yards per season through the air.

That resume will likely vault Jackson to the top of a relatively shallow free agent class in the backfield, but there are also reasons for teams to be concerned before they break out their checkbooks.

For starters, Jackson will be 30 years old before the 2013 season gets underway, and that's the age where many running backs show signs of decline or fall completely off a cliff.

Those concerns are exacerbated by the fact that Jackson has 2,395 career carries, tops among all active NFL running backs.

Player Name

Career Carries

Steven Jackson, STL

2,395

Willis McGahee, DEN

1,957

Frank Gore, SF

1,911

Adrian Peterson, MIN

1,754

Michael Turner, ATL

1,639

In other words, those tires have a lot of wear on them.

Also, for all those 1,000-yard seasons that Jackson racked up, he didn't exactly chew up yards doing it.

Only once in Jackson's career has he topped 4.4 yards a carry, and in three of the past five seasons he's gained 4.1 yards a carry, or less.

Add that all together, and it's unlikely that Jackson is going to get close to $7 million a year in free agency, especially with the relative value of running backs down in today's National Football League.

However, it doesn't appear that Jackson is in this for the money.

According to Thomas' report, after years of futility in St. Louis, Jackson is interested in playing for a contender.

If that's the case, and Jackson is amenable to taking a pay cut, then he's not going to have much trouble finding work.

The Atlanta Falcons, for instance, are expected to part ways with Michael Turner this offseason. That leaves them with a considerable hole in the backfield. Several sources, including Thomas, have mentioned them as a potential landing spot for Jackson.

Teams like the Green Bay Packers or Denver Broncos could also fit the bill.

Steven Jackson is what he is. Yes, his best days may be behind him, and his football odometer has a whole bunch of big numbers on it.

However, he's also a back that still appeared more than capable of moving the chains last year, can pass protect and catch the ball and ranked a respectable 13th at his position, according to Pro Football Focus.

At the end of the day, the only number that's really going to matter with Steven Jackson in 2013 is the one on his paycheck.

How flexible he's willing to be, in that regard, will determine how many teams show interest, and if he truly is willing to sacrifice coin for a shot at a ring, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him get that last playoff run he seeks.

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