The Atlanta Falcons have come to an agreement with free agent running back Steven Jackson, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The now former Ram has put up more than 1,000 yards rushing in each season since 2005, with his best year coming in 2006 when he had 1,528 yards on 346 carries to go along with 13 TDs. Last year, Jackson ran for 1,042 yards on 257 carries to go along with four touchdowns. He also caught 38 passes for 321 yards.
We’ve written at length on Jackson, and specifically the Jackson-Michael Turner comparisons a lot over the past few weeks, since the two running backs are battling father time far more than any opponent. Turner turned 31 a month ago, and Jackson is set to blow out 30 candles on his birthday cake just prior to the start of training camp in late July. The difference, though, is in the state of their respective declines into the running back abyss.
Despite the support of Jacquizz Rodgers for a handful of carries a game and to rotate in on passing downs, Turner floundered fast during what was eventually his final season in Atlanta. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry, which led to only 803 total rushing yards. Like so many others before him, Turner became an advertisement for the cruelty of the running back position past the age of 30, as he had over 1,300 rushing yards in 2011 and 2010.
That’s a risk with Jackson too, which is why it’ll be interesting to see the financial terms of the deal (UPDATE: it’s worth $12 million with only $4 million guaranteed, a fine buy with a low-risk commitment, as expected). So far we know that Jackson has signed on for three years, a contract he almost definitely won’t see the end of since he’ll get Michael Turner’ed once his own fade begins. However, as of right now the indications of oncoming doom are minimal, as Jackson averaged nearly 80 yards per game during the second half of the 2012 season. As always, the guaranteed money is key.
The Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are buying knowing they’re taking on the risk of Jackson’s elderly status, but the bet they’re making is that his fade can at least be postponed by a year or two while they determine if Rodgers can be a featured back with his diminutive size.