About two weeks ago, Rams coach Jeff Fisher expressed optimism the team would agree to a new contract with running back Steven Jackson. Fisher went as far as to say “things look good,” even though it was clear St. Louis didn't have much interest in paying Jackson the $7 million he is set to receive in the final year of his contract.
Now, though, it appears there's a good chance Jackson will continue his career elsewhere.
It was reported late last month that Jackson would void the final year of his contract, meaning he'll be an unrestricted free agent. Earlier this week, Jackson told Sirius XM Radio (via PFT) that his reasons for doing so were not financially related. Basically, Jackson still believes he's a No. 1 running back, but the Rams wanted to give others some of the carries he's used to receiving.
“It would be more of a running back by committee kind of agreement [with the Rams] going forward,” Jackson said. “I embrace the fact that I took in
"But for where I'm at going into Year 10, I'm not ready to step back and just become a primary backup or reduced role guy, to be a part of a running back by committee. I still have a lot left in my tank. I still have a lot to offer a team. We're not talking about someone that is in Year 12 or 13. But I understand. I understand the business side of it. I still have a great relationship with the organization, and one day I'll be going back there.”
For the record, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman considers Jackson the great free agent sleeper of the offseason and thinks Jackson, no matter what he has said to the contrary, would be willing to accept a reduced role if it gets him closer to a Super Bowl contender.
Either way, it's hard to blame Jackson for wanting to explore his options, because he continues to play effectively. Though he'll turn 30 in July, he's put together eight straight seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards, and he's usually good for about 40 catches per year.
But $7 million is a large price to pay for a running back who's been in the league for a decade.
“I've opted out of my position of being with the team and being comfortable because I want to continue to still be the bell cow,” Jackson said. “So that's how I want teams to look at me. That's how I'm going to shop myself, and we'll cross that bridge when we get there if that's not the feedback that we're receiving.”
Chances are, Jackson will get good feedback, though it's unlikely he'll get any kind of expensive, long-term deal (and Freeman, for the record, thinks Jackson would make a rich man's Corey Dillon). Still, we consider him the No. 1 free agent running back this offseason, and there's a good chance that if a top contender wants a veteran running back to make a potential playoff run -- something Jackson desperately seeks -- Jackson won't be out of work for long.
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