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Monday, April 23, 2012
New deal? Where Steven Jackson stands

By Mike Sando

NFL teams rarely hand fat, long-term contract extensions to older running backs.

The San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore felt the urgency last offseason, leading him to hold out from training camp briefly before accepting a relatively modest new deal -- the best he could do under tough circumstances.

Jackson
Is Steven Jackson next?

Mike Lombardi's report for NFL.com suggests that Jackson wants a new contract from the St. Louis Rams. Jackson, like Gore, has reached his late 20s, when running backs tend to slow down. Jackson, like Gore last offseason, is starting over with a new coaching staff while realizing the window for negotiating is closing despite all he's given to the team.

Jackson's contract is scheduled to pay him $7 million in salary for each of the next two seasons. The deal would have voided after last season had Jackson averaged 1,200 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving over the first four years of the deal. He fell short of that average, arguably because the Rams failed to support him adequately.

I've got no problem with Jackson fighting to improve his contract situation, should that be the course he chooses to take. No player has given more to his team -- in production, attitude and pure heart -- than Jackson has given the Rams during some of their darkest seasons. The fact that he signed his current contract doesn't automatically mean he has to live by it; NFL teams routinely rip up contracts when it serves them.

One question is whether Jackson has enough leverage to force the Rams into a new deal.

We'll have a better idea upon discovering whether the Rams select running back Trent Richardson in the draft Thursday. Selecting Richardson or even a running back in the second round Friday would give the team options beyond Jackson, affecting leverage.

Would Jackson be happy if the team simply guaranteed some of his remaining salary? Would he hold out? I'm hesitant to say more without hearing from Jackson directly.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to finish here," Jackson told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before last season. "I do want to finish here I can honestly say -- and I hope no one takes this the wrong way -- but I've been a beast in transitioning this organization from the dark days to now, the days of Sam (Bradford). I don't want all my hard labor to go for nothing."