Now is not the time for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson to run and hide from the free-agent market, and specifically from running back Steven Jackson.
There is little doubt that the Packers would love to see Jackson lined up in their backfield next season. The only question is: How much are they willing to pay him to make this happen?
The Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein shed some light on this situation as he reports that "[t]he Packers made contact with the representatives of Jackson," and that the Packers "may be engaging in a bit of gamesmanship in an attempt to get the best deal."
Silverstein goes on to say that the Packers don't want to be used as leverage for Jackson to get a more lucrative contract from the Atlanta Falcons.
Pointing also to this report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, stating that Green Bay was going to bring in running back Peyton Hillis, Silverstein proposes that this is the Packers' way of letting Jackson know that they aren't going to wait around for him.
This is all well and good, as long as the Packers are engaging in negotiations and not just looking for a more physical running back they can acquire on the cheap.
Ted Thompson has built the Packers into perennial winners largely by drafting and developing players. This is a wonderful strategy, and it has worked beautifully in Green Bay. However, there comes a time where gambles must be made to seize the window of opportunity, and that window is open right now for the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers is 29. While he still has plenty of years left to perform at a high level, he is not likely to get any better than he is now.
This alone should give the Packers a win-now mentality.
This is not to suggest that the Packers can just ink Jackson and call it good. They still have needs along the offensive line and at wide receiver.
They can address those needs in the draft or later on in free agency. Jackson, however, is an almost perfect fit, and they can't let him get away.
As Silverstein notes, the Packers have long been fans of Jackson, and head coach Mike McCarthy is looking for a more physical back.
Last season, the Packers were 20th in the league in rushing yards per game and 22nd in yards per carry at 3.9. That running game showed some nice flashes, but not enough to keep the attention of opposing defenses off the passing game. Green Bay doesn't have a running back that can wear a defense down.
Obviously, some of these woes fall on the offensive line. However, Jackson can be the kind of back the Packers need behind any line.
Just once in his nine NFL seasons has Jackson finished with an average lower than 3.9. That came when he posted a 3.8 average in 2010. In that season, he still rushed for 1,241 yards and six touchdowns.
The point is, Jackson will find a way to be productive, and he will do so game in and game out. He has missed just two games over the past four years.
It's not just about the carries with Jackson either. He is a true every-down back who has nice hands out of the backfield and can block. Both of these would be valuable for Rodgers, who faced an endless procession of pass-rushers last season.
These skills are worth the Packers doing what it takes to land Jackson, as he will help solidify their running game and hide any remaining holes along the offensive line.
This may result in a salary-cap risk the Packers aren't used to taking, but it's worth it.
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