This post is kind of a response to Van's earlier post on Steven. While I was pretty surprised that the Rams didn't draft an RB, at the end of the day it wasn't as pressing a need as everything else we drafted, especially considering that our Franchise RB is one of the top 3 Runningbacks in the league.
To me we're developing a troubling trend of sending off our Legends/Vets on sour notes. When you think of guys like Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, I wasn't particularly happy with how those situations turned out. I know it's the M-O of many teams around the league to let go of players for money issues when they aren't quite in their prime, but I feel as though exceptions have to be made when certain players have been so special to a city and to a franchise. In addition, how are we going to lure big-time Free Agents to St. Louis when it isn't exactly New York, Miami, or Los Angeles on the "attractive cities to rich 20-something millionaires" list? St. Louis is awesome from what I hear, but it is at a disadvantage on many fronts(mainly the amount of bright lights), and making sure we take care of our vets and legends would be a great selling point if we could reverse this current trend and establish a rep with players.
This leads me to Steven. I think if anyone embodies perseverance and excellence in the face of adversity, it's Steven Jackson. He has given and will continue to give his all to this Franchise. Those are the types of players that an organization has to "take care of," if you will. All I'm getting from Van's post is that we're supposed to cut our losses when the day comes that Steven isn't one of the top 3 in the business.
To be honest, I wouldn't care if he's getting top 5 money even if he were performing at only a top 25 level. I guarantee you we've spent worse money before (Tye Hill, Carriker, etc.). And even if his body doesn't allow it, you know he's got the respect of the entire locker room and every single fan, in addition to the fact that he's going to leave it all on the field on Sunday's.
To top it off, while I know his YPC was down a bit last year, Steven is still only 27 years old (he'll be 28 by the time the season starts)! We can do a comparative analysis with our last legendary runner, Marshall Faulk. A couple of caveats: I know Marshall was different style runningback/player. That said, here are some interesting stats that might make this comparison more appropriate.
By the time Marshall Faulk was 28, which consisted of the 1994-2000 NFL seasons (7 seasons in total), he had 2,360 touches (carries+receptions). In Steven's 7 seasons (2004-2010), he has touched the ball 2,205 times. I found this stat interesting considering how high we generally think Steven's workload is. Part of it is that he missed some games, but scatback Marshall still had to endure the punishment of over 150 more touches.
That said, Steven Jackson is simply better built to endure this punishment, owning a 25 pound weight advantage and a 3 inch height advantage. Marshall was never considered a physical specimen after all.
Those caveats included, Marshall Faulk's next 4 seasons (01-04) saw him average 1,456 scrimmage yards (981 Rushing and 475 Receiving per year). This production is pretty much 80% of his yardage production from 94-00, in which he averaged 1,820 yards per season.
So over 4 seasons, age wise, after where Steven is now, Marshall's production was still 80% of what he did during his first seasons, or prime years. I'd be perfectly fine with the same from Steven Jackson, even if he's slightly overpaid at that productivity level.
I propose to you however, that we haven't quite seen the best of Steven Jackson. I'm excited as to what Josh McDaniels can do with a QB of Bradford's level and a RunningBack with Steven Jackson's skillset. Here's hoping that it can somehow morph into what Mike Martz was able to do with Warner/Faulk, at least to some degree. How awesome would that turn out? If not, I'll still take 80% of Steven's last 7 years, at any price. He's earned that kind of respect from me.
And for God's sakes, he's 27. Not 30.