Nine seasons, 2,395 carries and 10,135 yards later, Steven Jackson is departing from St. Louis with an opportunity to join a championship contender. If he’s looking for a ring, the Green Bay Packers will be his best fit.
According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the Packers are in serious discussions with the running back regarding a multi-year contract:
Jackson is a rare player in the modern NFL. At 6’2” and 240 pounds, the 26th-leading rusher in the history of the league is the definition of a bruising, between-the-tackles runner. Even after nine years of blocking, hitting and scoring touchdowns, he’s still producing at a high level.
With a running style that would mean extended time on the injury report for most backs, Jackson has missed just 13 games in his nine-year career, exemplifying what it means to be a hard-nosed runner and a consummate professional. Jackson deserves to play for a contender.
The factors that contributed to some bad football in St. Louis are numerous, but one fact remains: Since 2004, the Rams have never topped eight wins in the regular season, making the playoffs just once in that span.
St. Louis restructured Jackson’s contract to allow him to void it at the end of last season. Just five days before free agency, that’s exactly what he did (per NFL.com).
Jackson’s decision comes as no surprise, but it’s certainly a difficult reality for a fanbase that has always embraced its best player. Nine years and one playoff win to his name, Jackson now has an opportunity to both contend for a championship and prolong his career.
The Packers have been without a quality running game for longer than they would probably like to admit. Aaron Rodgers didn’t need one to win Super Bowl XLV, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt Green Bay’s chances of repeating that feat to add one of the best veteran backs in the league.
The beauty of Green Bay’s offense is that it doesn’t need a sound running game to keep the chains moving; Rodgers and his corps of receivers comprise one of the only offenses in the league that can boast that fact. Still, the Packers haven’t completely abandoned the run, and as long as they plan to run the ball 433 times (as they did last season), bringing in a runner who can turn those carries into yards and touchdowns should be a focus this offseason.
Green Bay averaged 3.9 yards per carry in 2012 and tallied just nine touchdowns on the ground—two of which came from Rodgers. The team’s rushing offense may keep opponents off-balance, but it doesn’t pick up the yards to be a highly-effective unit.
Jackson’s carries have diminished significantly in the last four seasons. In 2012, he carried the ball just 257 times (324 in 2009), but that kind of minimized workload is expected of a 29-year-old running back with over 2,000 career carries.
Should Jackson decide to play for the Packers, he may not even be expected to top his 2012 mark next season. Green Bay was 16th in the league in rushing attempts last season, and youngsters DuJuan Harris and Alex Green will still be in the mix. If Jackson plays in Green Bay next year, he’ll no longer be faced with a situation in which he has to be the offense’s primary focus, effectively limiting the wear and tear he may incur at the position.
Green Bay is poised to remain at the top of the NFC this season. The Packers endured a tough loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs last year, but they will no doubt be back in the fold in 2013. Four straight seasons of 10 or more wins and a playoff appearance in each suggest little reason to count out Green Bay entering the 2013 season.
Several teams can offer Jackson a potential postseason run, but not every team has the cap space or room on the depth chart for a running back who will turn 30 before the season begins. If Jackson hopes to finally close in on a Super Bowl ring and remain in the league a few more years, the Packers offer him the best opportunity. The interest is obviously mutual.