Falcons release RB Steven Jackson

ByVaughn McClure ESPN logo
Friday, February 27, 2015

The Atlanta Falcons have released veteran running back Steven Jackson, the team announced Thursday, a move that will save the team $3.75 million against the salary cap.

Jackson, who turns 32 in July and had one year left on his contract, originally signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons that included $4 million guaranteed. Jackson spent his first nine seasons with the St. Louis Rams after entering the league as the 24th overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft.

The decision to release Jackson was far from a surprise as the Falcons figure to reshape their roster significantly under new coach Dan Quinn.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him a zone-blocking scheme where running backs are expected to thrive with a one-cut-and-go mentality. Although Jackson still runs with power, his older legs are not the ideal complement for such a system.

In a post on his personal website, Jackson thanked the fans and the organization, but acknowledged he fell short of his ultimate goal with the Falcons.

"In terms of what we hoped to accomplish as a team on the field, my time as a Falcon was a disappointment," Jackson said, "but I will always be grateful for how the city and franchise treated me while I was there."

Jackson gained 1,250 yards on 347 carries with 12 touchdowns in 27 games with the Falcons. He averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per rush in 2013, his first season in Atlanta.

Jackson did, however, achieve a milestone while with the Falcons. He surpassed 11,000 career rushing yards last season, becoming the 19th player in NFL history to accomplish that feat and joining the likes of Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders.

Jackson has 11,388 career rushing yards on 2,743 carries with 68 touchdowns.

Jackson said on his site he still believes he can be an effective runner in the NFL.

"Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs," Jackson said. "I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

The Falcons now proceed with second-year player Devonta Freeman as the primary running back. The status of both Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are unclear as they head for free agency, although the team has prioritized bringing Smith back. The Falcons could add another veteran running back and are expected to check into Justin Forsett from the Ravens if he reaches free agency.

Quinn and Shanahan already have preached having more offensive balance for what has been a pass-happy offense.

Last year, the Falcons ranked 24th in the NFL with 93.6 rushing yards per game. Jackson had the team's lone 100-yard rushing game with 101 in a 29-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The only Falcon running back who averaged better than 3.8 yards per carry last season was Smith, who averaged 6.3 yards on 23 carries before suffering a season-ending broken leg.

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