So much for that.
Steven Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons rather than the Green Bay Packers, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter is reporting.
The Falcons, who had the NFC’s best record and hosted the NFC Championship Game, just got stronger with Jackson replacing Michael Turner.
It’s not clear what went wrong with the Packers’ courtship of Jackson, though money clearly is at the root. Was Green Bay forced to make a choice between Jackson and receiver Greg Jennings, considering big money will be spent on extensions for Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and potentially B.J. Raji? Did they see better value in the draft? Or was Atlanta’s offer just too much for the Packers to swallow for a running back approaching his 30th birthday?
Jackson voided his contract with the Rams last week. In nine seasons with St. Louis, he rushed for 10,135 yards. That’s more than any active rusher in the league.
“Everybody knows about Steven Jackson,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said before the teams met in October. “He’s a big, strong guy, and if you don’t do a good job of tackling, he bleeds you for yards. If he can get running north and south, he’s so doggone big, and he finishes runs well.”
Jackson has topped 1,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons, including 1,042 yards on a 4.1-yard average in 2012. He’s also caught 407 passes. Last season’s 38 receptions were his fewest since his rookie season, making him the kind of every-down runner coach Mike McCarthy prefers.
With that, Green Bay remains stuck with a backfield full of question marks. DuJuan Harris, signed off the street after two months out of the league, emerged as the go-to player in the backfield down the stretch. James Starks can’t stay healthy, Alex Green didn’t impress a year removed from a torn ACL, and Ryan Grant and Cedric Benson are free agents.
The Packers figure to make running back a big priority in the draft, with Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell being a major possibility.
Jennings, meanwhile, is in Minnesota and will have dinner with Vikings officials tonight. The Vikings have a dire need at wide receiver and have more cap space than the Packers.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.