– While free agency can be a fun exercise as teams tweak and alter their roster with new players, it can also be downright gut wrenching sometimes. That’s just the nature of the beast.
– On Thursday afternoon, only a couple of hours after the elation that came with TE Jared Cook’s introductory news conference, the Rams and their fans found themselves on the other side of the coin as RB Steven Jackson agreed to a three-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
– Rams owner and chairman Stan Kroenke issues the following statement Thursday afternoon thanking Jackson for all that he gave to the organization and the city:
“For nearly a decade, Steven Jackson served as an inspiration for his St. Louis Rams teammates and our fans as he became our franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Off the field, his generosity and unselfishness improved the lives of many families in the St. Louis community. We will always be thankful for his contributions to our team and region and wish him success moving forward.”
– By now, it should come as no surprise that Jackson is leaving and really not even much of a shock that he’s headed to become a Falcon. Once Jackson opted out of his contract, it pretty much became clear he would look for a different opportunity, the kind of opportunity that would allow him to remain the focal point of his new team’s running game while also having a legitimate shot to win a Super Bowl.
– At this point in his career and in the Rams’ development, he apparently believed neither of those things seemed to be available in St. Louis (at least not as much as in Atlanta) as the Rams look to get younger and more explosive on offense with the likes of backs Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson and receivers like Chris Givens and Brian Quick.
– Sure, the Rams would have loved to keep Jackson and allow him to finish his career here. Likewise, Jackson would have liked to be the rare player to play his entire career in one place. But it simply wasn’t in the cards. Both sides expressed nothing but respect for each other during the lead up to today’s news and it’s probably a safe bet that Jackson will one day return to St. Louis to retire a Ram like Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt – two of Jackson’s most influential mentors in the game – have done.
– Jackson still has good football left him though he will turn 30 before this season begins. Most believe that running backs who turn 30 fall off the cliff soon after doing so. In many cases that’s been true. Of course, most running backs aren’t Steven Jackson, either. In Atlanta, he will finally have the freedom that goes with having seven defenders in the box to stop the run because of the presence of receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. In other words, he has a chance to get to 1,000 rushing yards for the ninth consecutive season.
– As he leaves the Rams, there’s no doubt about the indelible mark Jackson left on the team’s record book.
Here’s a short breakdown of just a handful of Jackson’s accomplishments:
Rushing yards: 10,135
Rushing Touchdowns (T-2nd): 56
100-yard rushing games (2nd): 33
Scrimmage Yards (2nd): 13,459
All Purpose Yards: 13,538
Receptions (5th): 407
– For as impressive as those numbers are, they don’t really quite do justice to what Jackson did in his time in St. Louis. He is one of the last of a dying breed, a true workhorse running back in a world of two and three-back systems. He could run, catch passes and block with equal aplomb. He worked hard to make himself into a pass protector and he became a very good one in his time here, to the point that a photo of his blitz pickup at San Francisco last year hangs in the office of GM Les Snead.
– Beyond the football field, Jackson was a major contributor in the community. He grew up in St. Louis in so many ways. A tumultuous start by a young and, by his own admission, immature Jackson grew first into a respect between he and the St. Louis fans. From there, as Jackson grew so too did his relationship with the fans and the community. Out of that respect grew admiration and, eventually, love. It’s why today as Jackson departs for a new opportunity, most everyone wishes him nothing but the best.
– Good luck, Steven, and thanks for everything.
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