The New England Patriots appear set to sign free-agent running back Steven Jackson on Monday, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson. Jackson hasn't played since being released by the Atlanta Falcons in February.
Source: RB Steven Jackson is signing with the #Patriots today.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) December 21, 2015
I'm back. pic.twitter.com/rjd0JDXgPi
— Steven Jackson (@sj39) December 21, 2015
The defending champions brought Jackson in for a workout last week. The veteran is expected to bolster a banged-up backfield that has lost two running backs in Dion Lewis and leading rusher LeGarrette Blount to season-ending injuries.
Heading into Week 15 against Tennessee, Brandon Bolden and James White were seemingly the only two realistic options in the New England backfield. Bolden gained 36 yards on 10 carries and caught two balls for 18 yards while White continued to be a passing threat, catching seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. But the runner who received the most opportunities was Joey Iosefa, who was promoted from the practice squad prior to the game. In his first NFL action, the rookie led the team in carries (14) and yards (51) in a 33-16 win that clinched a first-round playoff bye.
What the signing will mean for the other ball carriers is unknown but the Patriots will likely run by committee as they’ve done most of the season. New England ranks No. 4 in total offense (393.6 yards per game) but much of that comes from Tom Brady through the air. The Patriots rank No. 28 in rush yards per game (90.8) but have 13 rushing touchdowns, tied for ninth in the NFL.
Jackson’s last two years in the league were the two lowest for him in yards per carry (3.5 in 2013 and 3.7 in 2014). Iosefa averaged 3.6 yards per carry on Sunday while Bolden has managed 3.2 yards per carry on 42 attempts this season. White figures to play a visible role on passing downs as he’s caught 33 balls for 319 yards and three scores this season.
The 2015 Patriots will be the winningest team Jackson ever played for and the first one to finish the regular season over .500. Jackson has played just one playoff game (in 2004 with the Rams) but is guaranteed at least one more as he signs on with a team already locked into a postseason berth. He is currently the NFL's active leader in attempts (2,743), touches (3,207) and yards from scrimmage (15,051).
Over his 11-year career with the Falcons and St. Louis Rams, Jackson has rushed for 11,388 yards, received for 3,663 more and totaled 77 scores. Jackson ran for 707 yards and six touchdowns on 190 attempts with Atlanta in 2014.