You will hear a number of free-agent names, read a number of lists ranking them, see the various experts dissect and pluck and analyze. There is one name above them all. One guy who could change everything for a Super Bowl contender in need of a game changer.
That name is Steven Jackson.
Jackson is the great free-agent sleeper. He has eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, ranking him with Hall of Fame names like Thurman Thomas. He has more yards as a Ram than Eric Dickerson or Marshall Faulk.
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Jackson is 29 (turns 30 in July) and has just one or two more good years left. But he could be to some contender what Corey Dillon was to New England during its Super Bowl XXXIX run. Except he's better than Dillon.
Imagine Jackson replacing guard, er, running back Michael Turner in Atlanta. He would be a nice change of pace for that explosive passing offense.
New England has 87 running backs but none as good as Jackson.
There are three or four teams that could sign Jackson and improve their Super Bowl odds dramatically. He's that good.
"For where I'm at, going into Year 10, I'm not ready to step back and just become a primary backup or a reduced-role guy to be part of a running back by committee," Jackson said Thursday on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "I still have a lot left in my tank. I still have a lot left to offer to a team. We're not talking about someone that's in Year 12 or 13."
Make no mistake, there is still some explosion left in that battered body. Jackson is also dutiful, a workhorse and despite what he is saying publicly is willing to have a slightly reduced role for a contender, I'm told.
Jackson has told at least one Rams teammate he wants to play for a winning franchise, and is willing to play in a system where he would have reduced touches, if it meant a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl title.
If Jackson could run for all of those yards in recent years while playing for a crappy franchise with crappy quarterbacks, imagine what he would do in a place with complementary weapons. He will dominate.
There are other good running backs in free agency but none can touch Jackson. He's the greatest of free-agent sleepers this year. Don't let anyone tell you differently.