December 23, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson: The Free Agent

The St. Louis Rams reworked Steven Jackson’s contract last year to give him the option to void the final year of his deal this offseason.  It has long been speculated since the move was announced that Jackson would exercise that option and be out of St. Louis via free agency.  Well Steven Jackson has announced his intention to exercise that option and test the free agent waters.  The St. Louis Rams were unlikely to pay him the $7 million dollar salary he was due for the 2013 season anyway, so the option to void his contract just meant the Rams wouldn’t have to release him.

Jackson has hit the media circuit this week discussing his future in the NFL, and the reasons behind his decision to void his contract.  In what some people may consider a surprise statement, Jackson has stated his decision to void the final year of his contract wasn’t about the money but his future role with the team.  Jackson still believes that he can be an every down feature back, while the Rams are hoping to give their young running backs Pead and Richardson the lions share of the work in 2013.  While there is nothing I would like to see more than SJ39 finish his career with the Rams, I don’t know if I could stand to see such a fierce competitor and leader relegated to a support/mentor role.

The Rams spent a 2nd and a 7th round choice on potential replacements for Steven Jackson.  Daryl Richardson, the 7th rounder, surprised many by getting the bulk of the carries in relief of Jackson.  Pead had a disappointing season, even though he did flash some of his game breaking ability, he wasn’t able to get onto the field consistently.  From some of the rumors that have trickled out of St. Louis since the end of the season it seems Pead saw limited action because of his lack of professionalism and not his playing ability.  Not making it to meetings and practices on time is a sure fire way to end up in the Jeff Fisher doghouse.  The good news is that Snead and Fisher have both been on record stating they believe Pead can be the go-to guy for the Rams in the future.  The question for the Rams and their young backs is whether or not they have a short yardage power option.  Perhaps that is why they kept Ganaway on the roster this season even though he never saw the field, he could provide the short yardage and blitz pickup capabilities that Pead and Richardson may not be suited for.

With Sam Bradford entering his 4th NFL season and finally having the same offensive system and coordinator, the Rams seem ready to move on from the SJ39 era and put the reigns into the talented young franchise quarterbacks hands.  Of course the Rams will need to upgrade their offensive line and continue to develop their receiving options to fully extract Bradford’s potential.  With young and talented players such as Austin Pettis, Chris Givens, Lance Kendricks, and Brian Quick the future could be very bright.  The Rams were forced to provide extra protection for Bradford with Kendricks and Jackson on most of the obvious passing downs last season to help mask deficiencies on the offensive line, if the Rams can upgrade the offensive line they may already have the weapons to be an above average offensive team.

Steven Jackson has been the lone bright spot on some pretty poor football teams throughout his career, and is a large part of why countless Rams fans continued to follow the team.  Jackson is one of those players that everyone is pulling for, his reputation as fierce warrior and leader has earned him the respect of opponents and fans across the country.  If SJ39 does end up leaving the Rams in free agency I for one wish him the best.  He deserves a shot at playing on a winning team, to be the workhorse back for a Super Bowl contender.    The first article that I ever wrote for Ramblin’ Fan was about Steven Jackson.  Steven Jackson is my favorite player in the NFL and will continue to be regardless of whether he is in a Rams uniform or not, I will wear my #39 jersey with pride.



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