Atlanta Falcons Would Be Wise to Acquire Steven Jackson

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 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

For nine largely impressive (albeit wildly unfulfilled) seasons, Steven Jackson has worn his heart, body and mind on his sleeve for the St. Louis Rams. But that capricious marriage has probably run its course, and the pursuit of Jackson's service has finally leaked its first real lead.

Per The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

As for running back Steven Jackson, there weren’t a lot of phone calls inquiring about him Saturday according to those close to Jackson. But Atlanta still is regarded as the frontrunner for his services, and the Falcons aren’t the only team interested.

Other names—most notably the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos—have been floated around as possibilities, and from a football standpoint, they do make plenty of sense. But those rumors have been fleeting at best. Like the report says: Atlanta is undoubtedly considered the frontrunner. We finally have a story to talk about.

Which leads us to here—the consistently fun, potentially unnecessary art of speculation. If Steven Jackson does land in Atlanta, how do we think it would work out?

The evidence working against Jackson is compelling. He's 29 years old, which, if consumed in a vacuum, ain't exactly decrepit. But running backs age like milk, not wine. Once they hit their expiration date—usually some time around 30—things tend to go downhill fast.

But that's hardly a sure thing. Numbers count for something, and history does tend to repeat itself. But the eye test still, ultimately, is the most reliable tool available. And when I watch Steven Jackson run, I see a guy whose tank isn't empty.

Should the Falcons go out and give him a long, exorbitant contract? No. But should they do their best to acquire him reasonably? Absolutely, yes.

Even behind a God-awful offensive line, Jackson still managed 1,000-plus yards in 2012. He played in all 16 games and averaged 4.1 yards per pop. 

More than anything tangible, though, Jackson would be playing on a contender for the first time in years. And not just any contender—a Super Bowl contender. A team that was one break away from winning the NFC. A team that genuinely matters.

If that's not enough to invigorate Jackson—a man who's spent his career withering away in trifling St. Louis, one of the league's least-relevant franchises—I don't know what is. He'll be featured on multiple primetime games, and he'll probably be in divisional playoff races. He'll have all the motivation to perform in the world.

With Michael Turner's departure, he'll also have ample room for touches. Maybe not as much as he would have in St. Louis—though sophomore backup Daryl Richardson was sure to infringe—but enough to be important. He'd be the thunder to Jacquizz Rodgers' lightning, but he'd provide a much bigger clap than Turner (in present form).

Atlanta provided the twilight of Tony Gonzalez's career with substance. And Gonzalez rewarded their faith by providing a few years of still-very-high-level production. It's a formula that's worked—and might potentially still work, depending on whether or not Gonzalez retires—to the utmost.

Why not try to catch lightning in a bottle twice?