Our own Evan Sidery is hard at work doing some thorough breakdowns on potential free agents that the Colts should target in two weeks when the new league year begins. One of those targets is St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.
Jackson has spent his entire career in the Gateway City, and in all that time - amassing over 10,000 yards running the ball and scoring 64 total touchdowns - he has never played in a playoff game. This might be a reason why Jackson has opted to void the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent on March 12th.
By voiding his deal, Jackson is leaving $7 million on the table in St. Louis. That should give you a slight hint as to how badly he wanted out of that organization. Plus, it was doubtful that the Rams were going to pay him that money in 2013. They might have asked for a pay cut, or simply released him. By voiding, Jackson leaves on his own terms.
The question for us in light of this news is: Should the Colts try to sign Jackson? The simple answer is: HELL YES! But, at the right price and for the right reasons.
Jackson is 29 years old, which means that in about two years - and I'm basing this off past history with other players at his position - he will likely be washed up as an NFL running back. Some think he already is. He's carried the ball 2,395 times in his career, which spans nine seasons. To provide some perspective, the great Edgerrin James wore down considerably after year nine in the NFL, carrying the ball 2,849 times by that point. In fact, year nine was the last time he ran for over 1,000 yards in a season.
The major difference between Jackson and James is Jackson has not suffered a significant knee injury like Edgerrin did back in 2001. Jackson did have a knee issue coming out of college in 2004, but nothing compared to what James dealt with in 2001.
Another great back to compare Jackson to is LaDainian Tomlinson. After year eight, Tomlinson was clearly a shell of his former self, having carried the ball 2,657 times by that point. He left San Diego for the New York Jets, and there he had a brief resurgence, increasing his yards-per-carry from 3.3 the year before to 4.2. However, part of the reason he was able to do this was he split carries with then-rookie Shonn Greene.
In order for Jackson to remain healthy and relevant in the Colts offense, he would have to do the same in Indianapolis with Vick Ballard.
If the Colts sign Jackson, it means two things:
- Donald Brown is a goner, serving no function as a veteran presence in the locker room
- The Colts are looking for a big, stout back to help with the power-running game that Pep Hamilton plans to implement in 2013
Jackson is 6'3, 229 lbs. He would seem to fit the bill as a 'big back.' Donald Brown is in the final year of his rookie deal, which will reportedly pay him $1,700,000 for 2013 with about a $2,700,000 cap hit. Jackson will ask, and receive, at least double that for 2013. The question the Colts need to ask themselves is do they think a back like Jackson is an upgrade over Brown. I could answer that question for them (um, yes), but there are other factors. Is it worth more to sign the younger, less-worn down Reggie Bush? Sure, he'll ask for more money, but Bush is more explosive. Is Chris Ivory a cheaper, younger option?
When all is said and done, I'm someone who'd welcome the addition of Jackson to the roster. Part of my reasoning is sentiment. Jackson is too great of a player not to have taken part in a playoff game. He's due, and due big time!