During a time when Buffalo Bills fans have had reason to be wary about the future of the franchise, they can rest assured that one of the cornerstones of the team will be around for a little while longer. The Bills signed veteran running back Fred Jackson to a one-year extension earlier today.
Jackson was entering the 2014 season in the final year of his contract, and at age 33, there had to be concerns about how much longer he would remain a critical part of the team. But for all the shortcomings the Bills might have on the field, they have a good track record of being fair and loyal to players who have been the same with them, and Jackson is the most recent example.
Jackson is the oldest running back in the NFL, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his annual stats. Despite starting only six games last season, Jackson piled up 1,277 all-purpose yards, the third highest total of his career. He also scored a career-high 10 touchdowns. But Jackson’s value to Buffalo goes far beyond the stat line. A team co-captain for the past few seasons, Jackson is perhaps the most respected person in the Bills’ locker room. Despite never making the playoffs as a result of playing on some pretty bad Bills teams, Jackson has never once let whatever frustrations he might have affect his play or his demeanor. He has been a mentor to backfield mate C.J. Spiller ever since Spiller came into the league, and the two have given the Bills one of the NFL’s best running combos over the past few seasons.
The seven-year veteran is also a beloved figure in the community. Jackson is very active in numerous charitable organizations in and around the Buffalo area and just generally carries himself the right way. That he has become one of the most beloved players in Bills history during the least successful period in franchise history is a testament to his work ethic and character.
This extension leaves the Bills in an interesting place as far as Spiller is concerned, as Buffalo’s other star running back is entering the final year of his contract. There has been almost no talk about re-signing Spiller, who could very well become a trade chip for the Bills this year with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon added to the roster this offseason.
Whatever may have gone into the business side of Jackson’s extension, simply put, it was the right thing for the team to do to reward one of its true stalwart players.