In the second day of NFL free agency, the 2012 NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons signed former St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson to a three-year contract. Jackson, who turns 30 in July, replaces departed RB Michael Turner, who turned 31 a few weeks ago.
I haven’t yet heard any hard numbers on the deal, but it’s probably in the lower-teens somewhere at most over the three year span.
Obviously, age wasn’t the number one issue but Jackson is 17 months younger relative to Turner.
Jackson has 2,395 carries for 10,135 yards and 56 TDs in 9 seasons. Michael Turner has only had 1,639 carries for 7,338 and 66 TDs in his nine seasons. Both backs entered the league in the 2004 NFL Draft.
The St. Louis Rams selected Jackson with the 24th overall pick in a draft that seemed thin at the position at the time. His ensuing career has seen him bulldoze opponents with his 240-pound frame while having soft hands with over 400 career receptions. Turner was not a receiving threat with only 70 career catches.
Turner wasn’t used much his first four years in the league with the San Diego Chargers, but the Atlanta Falcons saw his potential and signed him to a lucrative long-term deal as a free agent before the 2008 season. Turner was considered to be starting to lose his edge – that magical “30 year old running back” syndrome.
Steven Jackson would appear to be a pretty good upgrade over Michael Turner. He’s the proverbial “complete back” who looks like a fullback, runs like a halfback, and can catch like a receiver. Turner was a one-trick pony – between the tackles he went.
The Falcons wind up with a true 3-down running back who can catch out of the backfield at 240 pounds.
He has also been outstandingly durable, gaining 1,000 rushing yards or more every season after his 673-yard rookie effort at the punishing position. The Falcons are looking for probably the same or slightly less from him. He’s had 250 carries give or take each of the past 2 seasons and the acquisition buys a little time for the organization to get their act together on someone to take over as a starter.
I’m certain that Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is glad for the help. When you have a running back that you can keep in for blocking, send out to catch, and can punish the middle of the defense on the ground it makes an offense a lot less predictable.
Luke Kuechly is going to have to tackle as someone as big as he is now. And twice a year!