jackson-jump2

Old guy for old guy. Battle axe for battle axe. Rusty John Deere for…yeah, you get it.

Late last night shortly after I apparently drifted off into a blissful slumber while watching G.I. Joe (no, you’re a child), a report surfaced regarding Steven Jackson. Courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, we learned that the Rams running back intends to opt out of the final year of his contract, and become a free agent on March 12. While it’s so very, very notable, the move is something far less than surprising since Jackson is still productive despite his age (29), and surely over his final years he’d like to actually compete for something. That’s not happening in St. Louis.

So off he goes, and in the process he’ll leave $7 million in the Rams’ hands. But where exactly is he going? Welp, Atlanta sure seems to make a lot of sense.

At first due to the aforementioned battle axe for battle axe exchange, acquiring Jackson doesn’t seem to make much sense for a Falcons team that would presumably like to get a little younger in its backfield, and reduce the plodding. The Falcons releasing Michael Turner still appears to be inevitable, so then by signing Jackson they would be effectively trading in their rusting 31-year-old running back for a 29-yard-old model that has only a single layer of shine left. On the surface that seems…unwise.

But remember that in running back years — which accelerate much quicker than human years, but aren’t quite on the same pace as dog years — a two-year age gap is still significant. Any team that pursues Jackson on the open market will do so knowing that a decline is likely forthcoming, and will price him as such. For the Falcons, he’s the ideal fit because he can bridge whatever divide exists between now and the time when the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers is ready to handle a full load, and possibly do his best Ray Rice-lite impression.

The major flaw in the Turner-Jackson comparison goes beyond the number on their respective birth certificates, though, as we should instead focus on other far more important numerals. Turner defined plodding last year, and the only reason he had value to either you as a fantasy owner or the Falcons as a player who mattered was due to his goal-line ability (he scored 10 rushing touchdowns). But he had 800 total rushing yards at a pace of 50.0 per game, and just 3.6 per carry, and all of those numbers easily represent career lows during Turner’s time as a starter. To illustrate how far he’s fallen, in 2008 turner finished with 1,699 yards at a pace of 106.2 per game.

Jackson, meanwhile, is certainly declining, because that’s the nature of a human athlete who’s growing older. As opposed to, I dunno, a cyborg athlete. But there’s a vast difference between Jackson’s decline and Turner’s.

Let’s start with the fact that Jackson’s had eight straight years with at least 1,000 rushing yards, and of his nine seasons, his per carry average has dipped below 4.0 just once (he finished at 4.1 in 2012). His career per season rushing average is 1,126.1 yards, and this past season he didn’t finish too far behind that despite being limited by nagging injuries at times, and also sharing some carries with Daryl Richardson (he had 1,042 yards). His receiving yardage out of the backfield also hasn’t declined much after he had 321 yards last year, and his career season average is 369.3.

Of course, what’s concerning is that Jackson’s season was essentially split in two in 2012 when he averaged 50.4 rushing yards over the first eight games, and 79.9 in the second half. That’s the risk Atlanta would hypothetically be taking. Of those two, which Jackson shows up? And can the pounding and effective Jackson appear with any consistency? There’s no way to answer those questions right now, but the Falcons are protected against severe ramifications from that risk with Rodgers behind — or beside? — Jackson.

Do it.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • The defensive backs — a position where 40 times actually matter, a lot — are on the field during the final day of the Combine. Tyrann Mathieu just raised his draft stock. [Shutdown Corner]
  • And Dee Milliner solidified his likely top five perch. [ESPN]
  • The Patriots are discussing a new contract with Wes Welker’s reps, which seems like a pretty good thing to do. [Boston Herald]
  • An updated list of the top 50 free agents. [Evan Silva]