Monday, May 7, 2012
Bills stay loyal to RB Fred Jackson
By James Walker
The Buffalo Bills stayed true to their word. They reportedly gave a two-year contract extension to running back Fred Jackson, who has been one of the NFL's most undervalued and underrated players the past several seasons.
Jackson was an early MVP candidate when he tore up the league with 934 rushing yards in the first 10 games. At the time, Jackson thought he proved he deserved a new contract, and the Bills agreed to work something out.
Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a season-ending leg injury, and former first-round pick C.J. Spiller did a good job replacing Jackson in the starting lineup. That could've been reason enough for the Bills to go back on their word. But the Bills and general manager Buddy Nix stayed loyal to Jackson, which is not something you often see in the cut-throat business of the NFL.
Jackson has been a model of consistency on and off the field in Buffalo. He's one of the team's leaders, a self-made player and hard worker who often represents the Bills in the community.
There are some risks involved, but the length of the agreement lowers that risk. First, Jackson is a 31-year-old running back. He can hit the wall at any time, just like many great tailbacks before him. He also is coming off a season-ending leg injury and needs to prove he can bounce back. Jackson, a late bloomer, says he still has plenty left in the tank.
Risks aside, Jackson's extension caps the best offseason in Buffalo in recent memory. The Bills signed bookend defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, used a top-10 pick on cornerback Stephon Gilmore and extended Jackson and No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson. All of these moves should help the Bills, who were 6-10 last season, be competitive in the AFC East.
Nix and the Bills' front office have set the table for a good year of football in Buffalo. Now, it's up to the Bills' coaches and players to put it all together on the field.