Fred Jackson Enters, Which RB Leaves?

Ian Rappaport is reporting that RB Fred Jackson, cut by the Buffalo Bills yesterday, is likely to sign with the Seahawks as soon as today.

Signing a veteran running back like Jackson would say a lot. Even the apparent interest is revealing. What comes next maybe even more intriguing.

A bit about Fred Jackson

At 34 years old, Jackson is the oldest running back in the NFL. He has also remained rather productive. 

Fred Jackson career rushing stats

2007 BUF 8 58 300 5.2 27 0
2008 BUF 16 130 571 4.4 32 3
2009 BUF 16 237 1,062 4.5 43 2
2010 BUF 16 222 927 4.2 39 5
2011 BUF 10 170 934 5.5 80 6
2012 BUF 10 115 437 3.8 15 3
2013 BUF 16 206 890 4.3 59 9
2014 BUF 14 141 525 3.7 38 2

Receiving stats

2007 BUF 8 22 30 190 8.6 54 0
2008 BUF 16 37 45 317 8.6 65 0
2009 BUF 16 46 60 371 8.1 21 2
2010 BUF 16 31 54 215 6.9 65 2
2011 BUF 10 39 50 442 11.3 49 0
2012 BUF 10 34 42 217 6.4 34 1
2013 BUF 16 47 68 387 8.2 37 1
2014 BUF 14 66 90 501 7.6 34 1

Jackson had more receiving targets than any almost any of the Seahawks receivers last year. He is also known to be a tenacious pass blocker. Marshawn Lynch and Jackson were teammates in Buffalo and are close friends. Signing a player who is near the end of his career is not a typical John Schneider move. Something about Jackson and something about his current running back room has to be driving him in this direction.

The things that would attract Schneider and Pete Carroll to Jackson are pretty clear. He is a warrior runner, like Lynch, who is a very good pass protector and receiver out of the backfield. He is probably more capable than either Robert Turbin or Christine Michael to fulfill all of the lead running back duties should Lynch go down for any period of time.

He could immediately become RB2 on the depth chart, pushing both Turbin and Michael down a peg. The team does not need to keep four running backs, when there have been barely enough snaps for three the past few seasons. Jackson signing likely would mean another shoe would drop.

The obvious: goodbye, Christine Michael

Michael is at the bottom of the running back depth chart. He has been maddening and intriguing. The coaches have clearly been frustrated with him, or he would have been seeing more snaps by now. 
This last game against the Chargers was a perfect example. He had a 29-yard run on one play and then danced in the hole and turned what should have been a short loss or no gain into a seven yard loss on another. He has shown tremendous growth as a pass blocker, breaking bones of blitzers as recently as last week. 
The most predictable outcome of Jackson signing would be for the Seahawks to wash their hands of this underachieving second-round pick and hope to get something for him in a trade.
There would be a market for him, especially since he has one more season of club control on his rookie deal. Just do not expect anything meaningful. A conditional pick is the normal Schneider route. A team like the Dallas Cowboys would make a ton of sense, except for the fact that it would give an NFC contender a possible feature back behind that titanic offensive line. 
Trading Michael would save $500K in cap space this season and around $900K next season, per Keep in mind, though, that Jackson will eat up more cap space this season than trading Michael would create.
Michael is the only player on the roster with any shot of being the heir apparent to Lynch next season, should Lynch choose to retire as many are predicting. Trading him now would mean they would be clearing the decks next season at the position, or praying Lynch sticks around, stays healthy, and is still a worthy starter at 30 years old.

The less obvious: trade Robert Turbin

Turbin is well respected inside the locker room and among the coaches. He is a hard worker who does what he is asked to do. He is young enough to still have 3-4 years of peak performance ahead of him. So why would Seattle consider parting with him?
Turbin has never shown he can be more than a reliable backup at running back. He is almost an anti-Michael. He runs exactly where Tom Cable wants him to go, but rarely is going to have the vision, creativity, or burst to get more yards than any other running back would on the play.
He is entering the final year of his contract, and it is hard to see Seattle spending much cap space on resigning him. Trading him would actually net Seattle more in cap space ($660K) this year than trading Michael. 
Jackson also would seem to more closely mirror Turbin’s skill set, except better in most regards. The Seahawks front office could decide they want to hold onto Michael through his rookie deal and replace Turbin with Jackson this season to upgrade the backup spot.
Assuming neither Turbin nor Jackson will play for Seattle next year, this becomes a straight swap as opposed to the Michael move where the team would be sacrificing a player with an additional year for one who will only play one.

Even less obvious: Jackson as a fullback

Jackson is known as a willing blocker. The team could try him in the backfield with Lynch as a fullback. This would mean Derrick Coleman would possibly get cut. This seems pretty silly to even discuss. 
Coleman is a core special teams player, and Jackson doesn’t make a ton of sense as a fullback. 

The least obvious: keep all three

It was not that long ago that some of us were considering the possibility that the Seahawks would keep five running backs this season. The logic there was that Lynch could retire next year and Turbin would be gone, leaving only Michael as the possible starter (setting aside the 2016 draft). Keeping a young guy like Thomas Rawls or Rod Smith in the stable could make sense on the developmental side.
Seattle could choose to keep five backs, including FB Derrick Coleman, with Jackson, Michael and Turbin. The problem is that it would not seem to really solve a problem next year, which would be the reason to do it.

My gut reaction

I think Michael probably irritated coaches with his decision-making in the Chargers game. Even his long run came outside the flow of the offense. It would not surprise me if the team saw this as a chance to move him elsewhere.
The problem is, swapping out Turbin for Jackson makes a lot more sense in terms of skill set, role, and cap impact. I’m having trouble seeing why it would make sense to keep Turbin around for another season as a third string back. It would be best for him to get moved somewhere he could get meaningful snaps, and it would be far less likely to bite the Seahawks in the butt as his ceiling is more limited than Michael.
The first domino to fall would be Jackson signing. Then, let the games begin.

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