According to multiple reports, free agent running back Fred Jackson is traveling today to Seattle to meet with the Seahawks.
From general manager John Schneider's perspective, visiting with the former Buffalo standout running back has to come with a little bit of deja vu.
After all, it was Schneider's trade five years ago for another former Bills running back - Marshawn Lynch - that helped the Seahawks morph into the two-time defending NFC champion.
This time, of course, Seattle wouldn't have to give up a pair of Day Three picks to add the runner, as the club did with Lynch. Jackson, 34, is a free agent whose release Monday was characterized by Bills' general manager Doug Whaley as a "difficult decision." Whaley described Jackson as "the heart and soul of the Buffalo Bills."
Jackson was with the Bills during Lynch's tenure and remains very close to Seattle's star. Despite starting just nine games a year ago in Buffalo's muddled backfield, Jackson led the team in both rushing (525 yards on 141 carries) and in receptions (66 for 501 yards).
Jackson's release by Buffalo was spurred by salary cap restraints and a crowded, younger backfield that includes LeSean McCoy, whom the Bills added in an offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Seattle, of course, has its own limitations on the salary cap so it will take some creativity by Schneider, chief negotiator Matt Thomas and Jackson's negotiating team to make this a fit. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport sounded pretty sure something would happen. "sides expect a deal to get done."
While financially the move could be a tight squeeze, schematically, the fit is obvious.
The 6-1, 215 pound Jackson may not possess Christine Michael's agility or Robert Turbin's bulk but he's still arguably a more efficient runner than either of them, setting up his blocks and making decisive cuts that lead to consistent production. Better yet, he's a fantastic asset in the passing game, showing receiver-like hands out of the backfield and both awareness and toughness in pass protection.
Given the early struggles anticipated with Seattle's re-shuffled offensive line, having a back with Jackson's versatility in the passing game would be a huge gain. Turbin has resided as Seattle's primary backup to Lynch in large part because the Seahawks trust him much more than Michael on passing downs. However, Turbin suffered a "significant high ankle sprain" last Saturday against the San Diego Chargers, Carroll said during his post-practice meeting with the media Tuesday.
If the Seahawks were to sign Jackson, Turbin and Michael might each be vulnerable. Turbin, 25, is coming off hip surgery, carries a cap hit of just under $750K this year and is a pending free agent.
Michael, 24, hasn't developed as Seattle had hoped after he was the team's first pick of the 2013 NFL draft. He's a flashy runner with the greasy knees and electric burst to make wow runs but has struggled with consistency in his reads, ball security and in the passing game. Though Michael is set to make more than Turbin this year at just over $920K, he also comes with a more significant penalty in dead money if he were to be released. The Seahawks would take on $417K in dead cap space if Michael was released in 2015. Michael is signed through next season with him currently set to earn $1.07 million in 2016 with a dead cap hit of "just" $208K then. All financial figures come courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Like Michael, rookie free agents Thomas Rawls and Rod Smith have shown flashes but recently Carroll seemed to dismiss them as candidates for the regular season roster.
"Well, they are kinda just trying to make it, trying to hang right now," Carroll said last week. "I don't know if they are pushing anybody but just pushing themselves right now, trying to figure it out, finding their way onto special teams, showing they can do something when they get a chance," Carroll said. "We really like the way that they've competed so far. Unfortunately, there's only two games left here to figure it out. But they are doing well."
It is conceivable that the Seahawks could keep a loaded backfield of Lynch, Turbin, Michael and Jackson. The Seahawks have kept as many as five backs on the roster during the Carroll-Schneider era. If that was to occur, expect fullbacks to also be part of the mix. Currently, the Seahawks have Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu on the roster.
If yesterday's trade of Kevin Norwood proved anything, however, it is that Schneider and Co. have an acute understanding of the value of their own players. It is possible that by signing Jackson, Turbin and/or Michael could be put on the trading block.