NFL: Grading the Most Meaningful Free Agent Signings

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Atlanta Signs Steven Jackson 

Steven Jackson didn’t get much credit for his performance because he was stuck on the St. Louis Rams, a losing franchise.

Dec 30, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

But now that he is an Atlanta Falcon, Jackson could finally get the credit he deserves.

Jackson, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons, signed a three-year, $12 million contract, according to multiple sources. Matt Ryan performed like a top quarterback, and with a guy like Jackson, Atlanta could have punched its ticket to Super Bowl 47.

In the NFC Championship, the Falcons ran the ball 21 times (not including Ryan’s runs) while having Ryan throw 42 times, or two-thirds of the time. The Falcons have a pass-heavy offense, and they won’t hand Jackson, who received 257 carries in 2012 (16.1 per game), the ball as often.

Jackson only averaged 4.1 yards per carry (YPC) in 2012 and his career average is just 4.2 YPC. In seasons in which he has received over 134 carries (eight seasons), he has never exceeded 4.4 yards per carry. Jackson was 15th in rushing yards and 24th in yards per carry (120 carries or more).

Plus, Jackson is aging. He even thought about retiring, which isn’t a good sign for the Falcons. Jackson is going to be 30 years old before the season starts, and that’s usually thought of as the age when running backs go downhill. Jackson is a durable back who can handle a lot, but I don’t think he will be as productive.

Atlanta filled a need and got a durable, talented back for just $4 million per year, but it’s not going to be as great as it seems. Because the deal was so cheap and because the Falcons still have a young running back in Jacquizz Rodgers, it’s not a bad signing.

The Falcons aren’t getting the guy they think they are getting with this signing.

Grade: B+