As speculation continues to swirl regarding the future of one Buffalo back, the Bills have locked up their other mainstay. The Bills announced Wednesday that they have come to an agreement on a one-year contract extension with veteran running back Fred Jackson:
The Bills provide Jackson's comments on the deal:
Head coach Doug Marrone expressed his thoughts on Jackson on the Bills' Twitter:
Jackson, 33, was entering the final year of a two-year, $8.7 million contract. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the deal will have a base salary of $2.6 million and will include other performance-based incentives:
ESPN's Mike Rodak broke down the deal:
Base salary: $2.35 million
Roster bonus: $150,000 (paid in $9,375 installments per game active)
Workout bonus: $100,000
The $2.35 million base salary doesn't become guaranteed until after Week 1 of the 2015 season. In the event that Jackson's play declines this season to a point where the Bills either need to cut him or he retires before Week 1, the Bills are only on the hook for the $100,000 workout bonus.
Overall, Jackson's cap number will drop from $3.85 million this season to $2.6 million if he is active for the entire 2015 season. Until Jackson proves otherwise, he's worth that money.
The deal is roughly similar in structure to his contract for 2014. Under the terms of his current agreement, Jackson is paid a $2.45 million base salary with roster, workout and other performance bonuses. The full breakdown of the extension is unclear at this time and will likely be released at a later date.
Either way, this should join the Bills and Jackson at the hip for the remainder of his career. By the time his extension expires, he will be 35 years old. The last running back to receive so much as a carry in his 35-year-old season was Kevin Faulk in 2011. It's possible that Jackson re-signs with Buffalo at the end of his extension, but it's more likely he'll choose to hang up the cleats afterward.
While most running backs in their 30s see their production decline as their bodies break down, Jackson has continued to produce his brand of quiet effectiveness. He rushed for 890 yards and nine touchdowns in his age-32 season, his seventh in Buffalo. Jackson also hauled in a career-high 47 receptions, as Marrone worked to emphasize the versatility of his running back corps.
C.J. Spiller finished just ahead of Jackson with 933 rushing yards despite the latter receiving four more carries. Spiller, who turns 27 next week, is also heading into the last season of his rookie contract.
Jackson's new deal will do little to quell the speculation that this could be Spiller's last go-around in Buffalo. There has been next to zero progress as the two sides attempt to hammer out a contract extension. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports even speculated that the Bills could entertain trade offers for the former Clemson star, who is two years removed from his breakout 2012 campaign.
"I haven't really thought about that," Spiller told Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com regarding his contract situation. "Every year to me is a crucial year. Every year you get to play this game is crucial because you don't know when it will be your last. All that other stuff, it will handle itself."
The Bills also have Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon on the roster for depth. Brown is only 23 years old and is coming off two promising seasons as a backup in Philadelphia. Dixon has never really put it all together at the pro level but is a bruiser who could fill in around the margins.
Given the history of aging running backs, though, the Bills might want to hold on to their depth. Only five running backs in the last decade have carried the ball 100 or more times in their age-33 season. Fast-forward a year, and that number dwindles to one—Ricky Williams in 2011. The Bills can take solace in Williams and Jackson both having low wear-and-tear on their aging bodies. (Jackson went undrafted in 2003 out of Coe College and spent time both playing indoor football and in NFL Europe before latching on with the Bills.)
But it's nonetheless fair to wonder whether the extension will look bad in a year.
For now, Jackson gets paid, and Buffalo keeps a beloved figure around. Let's see what this means for Spiller.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.