Would the Patriots be interested in Stephen Jackson?

Stephen Jackson was once one of the best running backs in the NFL when he was a member of the St. Louis Rams. Now at age 31, his current employer, the Atlanta Falcons, are reportedly going to release him.

With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen both set to become free agents, would it be a good idea for the Patriots to explore bringing Jackson on board? At first glance, many people's answer is probably going to be no, given his age.

According to rotoworld.com, Jackson has averaged 3.60 yards per carry since joining the Falcons in 2013 and has only scored 13 touchdowns in a 27-game span. Those numbers are obviously not impressive, but one thing to consider is he played through soft-tissue sprains during his time there.

Jackson broke into the NFL in 2004 and rushed for 673 yards in 14 games that year. Every single season until his departure from St. Louis in 2012, Jackson ran for over 1,000 yards. So it might be safe to say injuries played a huge role in his lack of production.

Bill Greenblatt/UPI
He was also a major threat in the Rams passing game. In 2006, he caught 90 balls for 806 yards and scored three touchdowns, while subsequently rushing for 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns. That was easily the best statistical season of his career.

That being said, New England still has LeGarrette Blount under contract for this coming season and have James White in the pipeline. Let's also not forget Jonas Gray, who, as we know, gashed the Indianapolis Colts in the regular season and then fell into Bill Belichick's abyss.

Now, I'm playing devil's advocate here and I'm going to pretend that Ridley and Vereen aren't coming back. If that happens and they ended up signing Jackson, I'm not totally sure how I would feel about it, but I think at the very least it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Patriots to give him a workout. I'll even go as far as to say that I wouldn't be shocked if something along those lines actually happens.

Here are my thoughts:

While the Patriots seemed to lean on Ridley more often when he was in the lineup, the Patriots like the running back-by-committee approach, and they also love the low-risk, high-reward type of deals. They got it with Corey Dillon, Randy Moss (even though they were acquired in trades) BenJarvus Green-Ellis and of course Blount, just to name a few.

Usually running backs around Jackson's age start to decline, and he'll be 32 by the time next season starts. However, if the Patriots were to sign him and he's healthy, I think he could be a solid contributor. He's a more in-between-the-tackles runner as opposed to Blount and Gray who run straight ahead and take people with them, so it would give the Patriots that flexibility again. Not only that, but it would make game-planning for opposing teams tough to do simply because they won't know who would be starting on a game-to-game basis.

Additionally, Jackson could seemingly take Vereen's role as a pass-catching running back, which Tom Brady and the offense very much valued. Brady would likely help Jackson put up better numbers in that regard as opposed to Matt Ryan, who is not a bad quarterback, but he obviously is not on the level Brady is.

This also hinges on Jackson's willingness to accept a lesser role and salary. But he'd be playing for a team that by all measures will have a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions next season.

We'll see what happens as the off-season rolls along, but Jackson's name may be one to keep in mind.

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