Two pieces of recent Fred Jackson news:
1) His leg is healing nicely. Jackson suffered a fractured fibula in Buffalo’s loss to Miami in Week 11 and was placed on injured reserve later that week. However, he recently told BuffaloBills.com that the leg is almost ready to go.
“The leg is doing good,” he said. “I just talked to the doctors. I’ve got about a week and a half before I can start doing everything like normal. That’s good and as soon as I can get back doing everything I will. That’s the plan. I want to jump right back into it like nothing happened.”
Great news, obviously. However, the second piece of news will be more controversial.
2) Jackson’s still hoping to renegotiate his contract. Jackson has a year left on his deal that will play him just $1.83 million next season.
According to BuffaloBills.com, “Jackson said a one-on-one conversation with Bills GM Buddy Nix back in the fall left him optimistic that the club would address his contract, one which he believes he has outperformed with his production on the field.”
And there’s absolutely no question Jackson has outperformed that contract. He was the NFL’s leading rusher before his injury this past season, and was simply spectacular in all phases of the game. Jackson was so good that he would have been a legitimate MVP candidate if not for the presence of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.
So there’s no doubt Jackson has earned a pay raise, but the (multi-) million dollar question is this: should the Bills be the team to give it to him, especially when he still has a year left on his contract?
Let’s break down the pros and cons of giving Jackson the extension:
PRO: Jackson is a GREAT player.
Jackson’s accomplishments in 2011: led NFL running backs in yards per carry (5.5), finished 20th in the league in rushing despite missing six and a half games, 442 receiving yards and had a real shot to lead the league in all-purpose yards before the injury. On top of that, Jackson is a tremendous pass-blocker. He’s really the complete package and one of the very best in the game at this moment.
CON: He’s 30 years old.
One of the amazing things about the NFL is that the athletes are so elite that the slightest of losses in speed and strength can end your career. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in running backs, who take a pounding that eventually erodes their athletic gifts. You lose just a bit of speed and quickness, and suddenly you go from the Pro Bowl to the unemployment line. The magic age this seems to happen is around age 30…which happens to be Fred Jackson’s age. Granted, Jackson’s different in that he’s had a lot fewer NFL carries than a typical 30-year-old back thanks to his circuitous path to the NFL and years on Buffalo’s practice squad and bench. In fact, he’s never had more than 237 carries in a season and has just 817 in his career. So it’s likely he’s got a lot more left in the tank than you might expect.
PRO: The Bills could probably get him for a bargain.
Because he’s 30, Jackson is desperate to get one more decent-sized contract. The Bills could probably get him for a lot less than he’s worth just by offering him the security of a longer deal.
CON: C.J. Spiller is here for at least three more seasons
As good as Jackson was in 2011, his understudy C.J. Spiller wasn’t much of a dropoff when C.J. was inserted into the starting lineup following Jackson’s injury. Despite running behind a very beat up offensive line for the final few games, Spiller ran for 5.2 yards a carry in 2011 and really emerged as a weapon. Spiller is young and under contract until the end of the 2014 season, and that’s going to certainly hurt Jackson’s leverage. Jackson can’t be thrilled with how much money Spiller cost him in the final month of the season.
So would I give Jackson the extension? Absolutely…for the right price. If he wants Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson-type money, forget it. But for a fair offer? I’d love to see Jackson finish his career here. He’s one of my all-time favorite Bills.