Steven Jackson's impending release feels like the single most inevitable move of the offseason for the Atlanta Falcons, and it has felt that way for many months now. It feels so inevitable that I wasn't going to even write it up, but then I realized plenty of you are still talking about S-Jax's fate, and the predictions are now coming in fast and furious. When Vaughn McClure at ESPN and Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk alike are predicting you're not long for a team, you probably are not.
Jackson, who turns 32 in July, is likely to be released with one year left on his contract. The move would save the Falcons $3.75 million against the salary cap. And the Falcons no doubt want younger, fresher legs in Shanahan's offense.
There are several factors working against Jackson, including age, cost, a relatively pedestrian two-year stint in Atlanta and a shift in the blocking scheme that would seem to reward a young back with quality vision who can hit the hole faster than S-Jax. Whether that man is Devonta Freeman or a new addition, I don't claim to know, but either way it would appear Jackon's days are numbered.
Jackson put up 707 rushing yards with a 3.7 yard per carry average and six touchdowns last year, which improved on his horrendous 2013, but didn't knock anyone's socks off. Injuries along the offensive line and some questionable play calling hurt him, but Jackson is what he is heading into his age 32 season, and as he continues to lose speed, he's only going to become more reliant on power and blocking up front. The Falcons need someone with greater big play potential, and they could use that nearly $4 million in cash to take care of other needs, including Julio Jones' impending contract extension and signing a badly-needed free agent pass rusher.
Jackson is a tremendous guy, an outspoken leader and one of the finest backs of his generation, which is what makes this release a little sad as well as inevitable. Running backs seem to wash out of feature roles with stunning ease in today's NFL, as we all saw with Michael Turner following an anemic 2012 season. If Jackson latches on elsewhere this offseason, it may well be as a part-time back.
We'll wish Jackson well when the axe falls, and we'll hope the team has a concrete plan at running back, which needs an overhaul as badly as any position on offense.