It’s no secret that the Atlanta Falcons ground game left a lot to be desired in 2012 with the tandem of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Falcons will have two choices when it comes to replacing Turner (who is likely to be released soon), they can look to the draft, or they can grab one of a few premier free agent running backs that will be available.
One of the latter is RB Steven Jackson, who is rumored to be terminating his contract with the St. Louis Rams, and the Falcons have been pointed to as one of his potential bidders.
While it’s true that Jackson could be a significant upgrade to Turner, it’s still a risk-reward call for Atlanta. Jackson is almost 30, and was used heavily for many years in St. Louis, averaging 266 carries a season over nine years – so he’s not exactly a low mileage model. He’s also suffered his share of injuries throughout his career, and running backs don’t have the longest shelf life in today’s NFL.
On the upside, Jackson is still playing at a high level, hitting the 1,000 yard mark for his eighth consecutive season in 2012, quite a bit the improvement from the numbers posted by Turner. Jackson is also more adept at catching balls out of the backfield than Turner, snagging over 30 catches a year for eight straight seasons – more than twice Turner’s average while in Atlanta.
The pairing of Jackson and Rodgers would give Atlanta two completely different runners, but would still allow offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to utilize both backs in the screen and short pass game – something that is crucial to the current Falcons offense.
It would be a margin call for Atlanta to go after Jackson who, like Turner, is on the down slope of his career, but a change of scenery and an offense that relies less on just handing the ball off for runs between the tackles could prolong Jackson’s career by at least a couple of seasons, which would be exactly what Atlanta would hope to get out of him.
Once again, the question of money and staying under the salary cap will play a huge part in Atlanta’s ability to afford a hired gun like Jackson or Reggie Bush (who the Falcons have also been rumored to be courting), so looking to the draft for another young back might be the only solution available when all is said and done.