Fred Jackson is no longer a member of the Buffalo Bills.
The fan-favorite running back has been a veteran presence for the Bills for nearly a decade. By now, his story is well known, going from Division III Coe College to arena football, making his way to NFL Europe, then making his NFL debut in 2007 as a backup to then-rookie Marshawn Lynch. Nine-plus years later, he leaves the Bills' as the franchise's third all-time leading rusher, behind Hall of Fame members Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.
GM Doug Whaley released a statement on the Jackson release through Buffalo Bills PR:
"Today, we had to make the difficult decision to release Fred Jackson," said Bills GM Doug Whaley in a statement."He had an incredible career for this organization for the past 10 years. We thank Fred for his hard work, dedication and leadership during his tenure with the Buffalo Bills. Fred has inspired the city of Buffalo in a number of ways. Fred and his family have been dedicated to this community and we can’t thank them enough for their contributions through his career."
There had been rumblings about a potential Jackson release earlier in the offseason. Back in March, Tim Graham reported that it was a distinct possibility.
From a paper standpoint, it makes sense. The Bills have a clear-cut starter in LeSean McCoy, they drafted a talented rookie in Karlos Williams who impressed in training camp and in the preseason, Boobie Dixon is an excellent special teams player with the ability to contribute significant carries to an offense, and everyone knows that Bryce Brown has plenty of rushing talent (even if he does leave the football exposed too much).
As the oldest running back in the league, Jackson should have been on notice all preseason for this possibility. The Bills did do him a slight favor, releasing him early enough to allow him to look at different teams and latch on before the regular season begins. As Mike Rodak reports, part of the incentive for cutting Jackson was to alleviate some cap pressure:
The Bills will save $2.5 million by releasing Fred Jackson, as @viccarucci first reported. But shocking move nonetheless.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) August 31, 2015
Jackson, with his DIII pedigree, was usually playing second fiddle to more famous names like Lynch and first-round pick C.J. Spiller. His best career stretch was three years from 2009-11, where he started 34 games, rushed for 2,923 yards, added 1,028 yards receiving, and scored 17 touchdowns. Jackson had a knack for producing big plays when his team needed them, and his field vision and pass protection were (and still are) top-notch.
Still, it's hard to put into words what it feels like to see Jackson leave. Jackson has been with the Bills through the worst years of the playoff drought, and to see him cut as the team has come so close simply hurts. He's one of the strongest community advocates the Buffalo area has, he's an amazing family man, he's an inspirational story, and he's a damn good football player. Best of luck in the future, Fred.