Tuesday morning, the fate of a Rams era began its final countdown as Steven Jackson decided to test the waters of free agency and void the final year of his contract. Jackson, who is turning 30 this year, was slotted to make seven million dollars in his final year as a Ram.
Ten years and 10,135 yards later, Jackson has been in two postseason games, both in his rookie year (2004), backing up a man named Marshall Faulk. He is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and has yet to be on a winning team (his lone playoff year STL went 8-8). Now, he is looking to finish his career elsewhere and capture that much deserved championship ring.
In the meantime, the Rams have a decision to make in the backfield. There is a possibility that SJ39 could be back if no one wants to sign him to a seven million dollar a year contract, which is likely given his age. The Rams could find a way to deal him a four or five million, three-year deal and have him finish his career out in St. Louis, have his number retired, enter the Ring of Fame, the whole nine yards.
Or they let S-Jax walk and give the younger guys a shot at greatness. Second-round draft pick, Isaiah Pead, out of Cincinnati, showed glimpses of brightness in his few carries and handful of kick returns. He averaged over five yards a carry in his career in Cincy and his highlight reel is ridiculous.
On the other hand, seventh-rounder, Daryl Richardson, out of Abilene Christian, had a bit more playing time this year, starting off as Jackson’s backup and third-down back. Though he seemed to have problems holding on to the ball, he played in all 16 games and averaged almost five yards a carry and seven yards a catch.
Finally, you have Terrance Ganaway, acquired last season from the Jets, who never touched the ball last year, works at Jimmy John’s during the offseason so that he can make some extra money and stay out of trouble. During his final year at Baylor, he rushed for 1,547 yards on 250 carries (6.2 avg) and 21 touchdowns. Pretty good stats for a guy that only dressed for three NFL games in 2012 and never touched the turf.
All three, or four if you count Jackson coming back, are good options for the Rams. They could go the three-headed monster, run-by-committee approach and see which back has what it takes to succeed. It eventually worked for Mike Shanahan in Washington when Alfred Morris appeared out of nowhere this past season. Or you let Pead and Richardson fight it out in the preseason.
I would not recommend picking up another running back in the draft. There are three second year guys that are already there to start working and another young mind is not going to help the situation. If anything, trading the Rams’ second round pick for a veteran isn’t too bad of an idea either. With two first round picks, the Rams could still be in decent shape to fill the holes they need to fill including a wideout and a lineman on both sides of the ball.
In any case, Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have their work cut out for them this offseason now that there may be some pretty big shoes to fill.