The NFL trade deadline is a notoriously anticlimactic event. Unlike in MLB, where many seasons are made or broken at the trade deadline, most NFL teams choose to sit on their hands and let the clock expire on their chance to pull off a season-altering deal.
The St. Louis Rams are likely to follow that precedent.
This team is rebuilding. Like all well-managed franchises they know that championship teams are built from within, not through blockbuster trades (Los Angeles Dodgers) or huge free agent signings (Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, etc.)
The three areas in which they need help—wide receiver, offensive line and safety—can all be addressed with the many early-round draft picks they have in the next two years. Making a trade for an aging veteran whose contract would likely be a salary cap burden would contradict what the Rams have shown to be their rebuilding philosophy.
But what about trading away an existing player? There is one proven veteran on the roster that is reportedly drawing interest from some of the many teams in need of help at his position and whom, if traded, would allow the Rams to add to their already significant hoard of draft picks.
I'm referring, of course, to Steven Jackson.
As I said, the Rams are rebuilding. Their 3-2 record five games into the season gave us all hope that Jeff Fisher could turn what should be a two or three year process into one of only a few months. Sadly, their subsequent three-game losing streak has injected a dose of reality into that sanguine perspective.
The Rams are not going to be consistently competitive with the best teams in the NFL for another couple of years.
By that time, Steven Jackson will be 31 years-old—a senior citizen in NFL running back years.
To trade him to a contender would be the best way to honor the years of selfless high-achievement he has given this franchise, while at the same time getting value in return.
Give him a chance to get a ring and in return add another pick, a third-rounder would be sufficient. If they don't trade him, he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and likely walks away, leaving the Rams with nothing.
What about this season? Aren't the Rams still trying to win football games in 2012? Of course they are. But with the way they are using him—or more to the point, not using him—his absence will not make much of a difference.
Consider this: In the first week of the season, Steven Jackson had 21 carries. Since then, he has only reached as many as 18 carries twice. He has received 13 carries or fewer in five of the eight games this year. In the last three games he has had 13, 12 and eight carries, respectively.
Meanwhile, his timeshare counterpart, Darryl Richardson, has seen an increasingly high percentage of the carries, registering 11, eight and seven over the same three games.
In addition to Richardson, the Rams have 2011 second-round pick Isaiah Pead on the roster. Pead made the most of his garbage-time minutes in the blowout loss to the New England Patriots in Week 8, amassing 32 yards on just three carries. These two young backs will be able to give the Rams all the production they need from the running back position.
Jeff Fisher has said that Steven Jackson will not be moved. For the good of everyone involved, I hope he is proven wrong.