Where does Steven Jackson play in 2013? (A RamsHerd Round Table)

Jim Thomas just reported that Steven Jackson has elected to test free agency, saying goodbye to a guaranteed $7 million from the Rams in hopes of one more contract as a starting RB … and to potentially increase his chances of a deep playoff run. 

The open question is which contending team might look at this veteran RB and see him as "the missing piece," particularly in a passer-dominated league. Thomas brings up the Atlanta Falcons right away, as they desperately need to upgrade over Michael Turner, but mentions them only as one of several likely suitors. 

The RamsHerd writers weigh in on Jackson's value: where do you see him playing in 2013? (If not in St Louis, will you root for him there?) 

Michael Lasquero

Honestly I just view this as Steven Jackson priming himself to sign a lesser deal long-term so he can retire a Ram. By signing a lower deal, this will give the Rams more cap room to sign potential high quality free agents so that we can effectively compete better in games, and I'm pretty sure SJ knows this.

But should Steven sign elsewhere, Denver, New England, Green Bay and Atlanta seem like potential destinations.  

Denver would be the likely fit. The Broncos are in a win now mode and Peyton Manning will definitely respect and be thankful to have someone like Steven in the backfield.  Jackson likes to be the feature back and he will have every opportunity to do so in the Mile High City.

I highly doubt Jackson winds up in Green Bay or New England because they will use a running back by committee more often.  Rodgers and Brady are both gunslingers and Steven's touches will be low. Not the ideal situation for Steven unless he's willing to accept a lower role.

As for Atlanta, no offense to any Falcon fans but the playoffs aren't just meant for them.  Sorry, I don't know what it is but they don't have the best of luck in the postseason.

Regardless of where Jackson ends up (even if it's the hated Patriots), I will root for his team, if they make it into the Super Bowl.  Steven has every right to pursue a ring for what he's done for the Rams in its darkest times. 

Seriously though, I hope he stays.  Action Jackson just looks so natural in Horns that he might easily be forgotten by the rest of the league if he played for another team.

Paul Petruska

I don't believe SJ is going anywhere, but to answer the question New England.  There is no way Atlanta signs him.  Michael Turner is better at this point in their careers.  They don't drop Turner to pick up a guy that is only slightly younger and obviously on the way down. 

To further the comparison: Atlanta just cut Michael Turner who had a 6.9 million salary coming up. He had 222 runs for 800 yards last year, with 10 touchdowns in 2012.  He also caught 19 passes for 128 yards, including a 60 yard touchdown. Steven Jackson was going to make 7 million this year, and rejected it. He had 257 rushes for 1042 yards in 2012 with only 4 TDs.  He caught 38 passes for 321 yards and with no additional touchdowns. Steven Jackson is exactly 17 months younger than Turner. I feel very confident that Atlanta is not going to offer Steven Jackson the salary he is looking for. Why would they?

New England is the one team that can utilize a 3 yards and a cloud of dust guy.  They do not need explosion, they need consistency.  Also, Coach B may finally teach SJ that he can't get touchdowns and the necessary one yard with his upright running style.  If he learns to get low, he may finally be the guy who can get the short yardage when you need it.  New England can use SJ in a way other teams cannot.  

I guess Green Bay is the second option, but they have money issues and Greg Jennings to worry about. 

Brennan Smith: 

For me, the obvious and least talked about destination is Denver. Jackson's days as an explosive and punishing running back are numbered, but he's still an incredible asset in blitz pickup and pass protection. Peyton Manning would never complain about having a savvy veteran in the backfield with him to diagnose defenses. Jackson could also be a mentor to Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno. 

I think the Packers are also a potential landing spot, but the most likely second option is him returning to St. Louis. 

I'll always root for Jackson wherever he goes. He's been an incredible ambassador, player and asset for the Rams for a long time and has earned every bit of my respect. At this point, I'd honestly rather see him go to a contender and have a chance to win a title before he retires. 

Tim Shields: 

I think he lands in St. Louis.  I think this guy is someone who loves football, but is also someone that loves to travel and loves to be on television.  After hearing he had thoughts of retirement, I see him playing another 2 years tops.  Which provides the Rams with the perfect situation to continue to bring along the backs they have in house. 

Maybe wishful thinking, but I see money and the years coming together for both parties.  But, if I'm wrong I see him going to a contender, probably (and preferably) in the AFC.  Maybe a team in the AFC North, like the Steelers or the Bengals.

Will Horton: 

Denver would appear to be an amazing fit for Jackson, particularly running the stretch play that Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James made the staple of their offense together in Indianapolis. (Per PFF, he averaged 4.9 and 5.3 yards per carry outside the tackles last season, a full yard better than his 4.1 season average.) While he may no longer have raw breakaway speed, Jackson is a refined technical runner with the footwork and timing with his offensive line to consistently get to the edge and be productive.  

Additionally, Manning's already-potent play-action game would become lethal with a legitimate 250-carry threat in the backfield. I'm not a Manning or a Broncos fan, but I would root hard for SJ to help make a deep playoff run if he landed there.

Atlanta would appear to be in a strong position as well, but the team I think is a dark horse to sign him is Cincinnati. They have more cap room than any other team in the league, and Andy Dalton appeared to be exposed as a passer late last year when their cobbled-together running game broke down. Like the Rams, the Bengals need to focus on adding more offensive weapons in the draft to support their young QB, and Jackson could be a perfect plug-and-play addition to their offense that allows them to focus on this year's crop of receivers and need positions on defense.

However, the Rams could very well still be in play. I am not sure any team ponies up $7 million for him, let alone multiple years at that rate. The Rams could conceivably match most any offer and still get comparative cap relief, putting the onus on Steven to make his talk of wanting to retire a Ram come true