RB Jackson seeking long-term extension (Associated Press)
In case you vacated planet earth about a week ago and made your return journey this morning, Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch was arrested and charged with felony possession of a concealed firearm last week. Oh, and there was marijuana in the car, too. The two-year pro will appear in court in California on April 2, and although rumors are indicating that Lynch might not be considered a repeat offender of the NFL's personal conduct policy, it's anything but certain that Lynch will be available to the Bills for a full sixteen games next season.
Backup running back Fred Jackson, an exclusive rights free agent, has made a name for himself over the past two seasons playing second fiddle to Lynch. In those two seasons, Jackson has accrued 1,378 yards from scrimmage and three scores despite averaging just over 120 touches per season. Already one of the team's most versatile and consistent performers - offensively and in general - Jackson was in line for a lengthy and lucrative contract extension before Lynch's second run-in with the law.
With increased negotiating power thanks to the unfortunate circumstance his running mate finds himself in, Buffalo would be wise to give Jackson the extension he seeks sooner rather than later.
Projecting Jackson's potential contract demands
Jackson will turn 28 in just two days' time (and we here at Buffalo Rumblings sincerely wish Action Jackson an early and hearty 'happy birthday'), making him barely worthy of 'spring chicken' status by NFL standards. (Sorry, Fred.) Still, if you're aware of Jackson's unusual route to the NFL, he's got far less wear on his proverbial tires than most backs his age at this level. He has little left to prove in terms of professional demeanor, work ethic and consistency. Few players are sounder investments.
For all of the underrated value Jackson has given his team over the past two seasons, he's barely scraped half a million dollars for his efforts. Simply put, no Bill is more worthy of a contract extension than Jackson.
But how much should Jackson make? Keeping in mind the fact that Jackson will still likely be nothing more than the Bills' #1A back next season, there are at least four runners with similar backgrounds to Jackson that have signed extensions within the past two years. Those players are...
Vikings RB Chester Taylor (2006): 4 years, $14.1 million
Raiders RB Justin Fargas (2008): 3 years, $12 million, $6 million guaranteed
Buccaneers RB Earnest Graham (2008): 4 years, $11.05 million
Packers RB Ryan Grant (2008): 4 years, $20 million, $4 million guaranteed
The deals that Oakland's Fargas and Green Bay's Grant signed are the most relevant here, mostly because they're the two most recent signings. It's important to note, also, that Fargas signed his extension four months after the Raiders spent a fourth overall pick on RB Darren McFadden. Jackson and his agent are likely targeting those two deals as leverage points for their negotiations with the Bills.
The four-year deals are trendy here, and considering Jackson's age, that's probably the ideal contract length for Buffalo. Grant signed his deal knowing that he would be Green Bay's starter, but based only on half a season's worth of production, while Fargas signed his deal after proving himself to be a worthy #1A back. At least a $4 million annual salary seems likely here (and that's reportedly what Giants RB Derrick Ward is seeking as well), but don't be shocked if the Bills give Jackson a bit more in guaranteed cash than is typified above.
My best guess (and it's meant only as a starting point for our discussions here): 4 years, $18 million with $8 million guaranteed would be the starting point of Jackson's negoations from Jackson's end. Jackson deserves a bit more guaranteed for making diddly squat over the past two seasons (consider it a performance bonus, if you will), but the contract is short enough for the franchise that it protects them against Jackson's age catching up with him quickly. Action Jackson is worth every penny of that type of deal, in my opinion; of course, obviously if you're the Bills, you try to talk him down from those figures (and you've certainly got sufficient leverage to do so). You're more than welcome to make your own counter-offers (and counterpoints) to this argument. Take it away, folks.