One of, if not the biggest question mark facing the St. Louis Rams coming into this offseason is the uncertain future of franchise running back Steven Jackson. His name, look, and number 39 are hallmarks for the team, but he has an opt-out clause in his contract for the upcoming 2013 season. Jackson’s future with the franchise that brought him in to begin his NFL career is awfully cloudy at the moment.
Even though there have been ongoing talks between the two parties, Jackson’s agent has yet to actually meet with the Rams. Jackson’s opt-out clause has until March 12 (the beginning of free agency) to be enacted. When asked by the NFL Network about his future four weeks ago, Jackson seemed awfully optimistic saying: “We’re going to talk about my possibilities, where I want to go, and does it fit? I believe we’ll get everything resolved before March.”
The clock is clearly ticking in more ways than one for the potential free agent as he will turn 30 years old in July just around the time that training camps open up. That has been the ‘end of the line’ so to speak for running backs in the league in recent years. His base salary at the moment will be $7 million at the moment which would be tough for the Rams to take as they are right up against the projected salary cap at the moment. Even though the team has been consistent in saying that they would like to have Jackson back in 2013, money could derail those plans.
Behind Jackson on the depth chart are two players who were rookies in 2012 with Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Despite being the lesser known and the lower draft choice of the two, Richardson got the majority of the touches last year and looked like a back capable of handling the road in the future. The main question remains whether or not that future will be as soon as this upcoming season.
For Jackson and the Rams, the most likely resolution remains that he voids the final year of the deal in order to test the market while the team tries to bring him back at a lower salary. There have been rumors floating around, however, that the New York Giants and New England Patriots would make a play for Jackson if he were to hit the open market. His future may still be difficult to determine at this point, but some clarity will likely be brought to the situation sooner rather than later with the March 12 deadline to start free agency looming large.