Steven Jackson Should Temper Starting Expectations and Join Contender Instead

Ethan GrantAnalyst IMarch 8, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30:  Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Steven Jackson has quietly had one of the best NFL running back careers of all-time.

He's one of only a handful of RBs that have eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark at least eight times, and currently sits in 26th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 10,135 yards on the ground.

After voiding his St. Louis Rams contract on Thursday and officially becoming a free agent, Jackson is now making headlines after reports that he still values his ability as a starting-caliber back (via ESPN).

Instead of worrying about his carries or being designated as the starter on another team, Jackson should find the best possible fit (both monetary and geographically) that will allow him to contend for a Super Bowl in the next two years.

Jackson's comments on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Friday made it clear that he is currently looking to join a team that would value him as the starting RB (via the ESPN piece):

"For where I'm at, going into Year 10, I'm not ready to step back and just become a primary backup or a reduced role guy to be part of a running back by committee...I still have a lot left in my tank. I still have a lot left to offer to a team. We're not talking about someone that's in Year 12 or 13."

Although Jackson later conceded in the interview that he would consider all options after the first phase of free agency gets underway, it's clear that his earlier comments paint the picture of a man that has become extremely dissatisfied of his role with the Rams—and wants to change that with a new team.

On the surface, he certainly has a point.

A bruising running back from Oregon State that has taken his fair share of hits over the past nine years, Jackson has been a steady presence for a lineup that has struggled to regain its success since the departure of early 2000s stars Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Issac Bruce.

Jackson has been the guy that has kept St. Louis relevant for all those years. He's also one of only a handful of players to rush for at least 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons, as noted by ESPN's Stats and Info on Twitter:

Despite having a reduced role last season, Jackson still produced another 1,000-yard card as he split carries with Daryl Richardson. The Rams surprised us all with a quality campaign that featured two thrilling games against division rival and eventual Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco, and Jackson was a big part of that effort.

Now, though, it's no surprise that the Rams (and other teams, for that matter) will ask Jackson to take a reduced role in the running game. He's got nine years of wear and tear, Richardson's speed impressed more than a few folks in the organization and the two-back system is becoming more prevalent in the NFL than ever before.

That's not to say teams won't be interested.

As noted by Gregg Rosenthal of, there's at least six teams in play that could take a chance on Jackson when March 12's free agency period opens, and those teams could even include a return to the St. Louis Rams.

Teams looking to add a power back to the mix (Dallas, New York Giants, Atlanta among others) would love to have Jackson in the fold. Dallas has a primary back in DeMarco Murray, but would love to make amends for passing on him in the draft in the first place.

The Giants cut Ahmad Bradshaw this offseason, and now have only David Wilson and Andre Brown to push forward with. The Falcons are in a similar situation after cutting Michael Turner, and Jacquizz Rodgers doesn't appear to be a clear-cut No. 1 option just yet.

Quite simply, there don't appear to be a lot of options for Jackson to make a lot of money, play for a contender and start all in one. I think he will figure that out once free agency hits, and be forced to go for two-out-of-three in regards to his current demand for a new team next season.

After all, this is a guy who has played in just two playoff games during the course of his career. With time limited on his NFL shelf-life and not many options to start full-time, Jackson should do the smart thing and look for a team willing to give him a chance to expand its running game in 2013.

Who knows, it might just lead to the third playoff game of his NFL career.