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NFL free agent running backs: Fred Jackson may surface as a complimentary back for Steelers

The Bills signed LeSean McCoy and may be interested in Jets RB Bilal Powell should he get out of New York and into free agency. That would likely spell the end of Jackson's tenure in Buffalo.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The running backs carousel is in full-swing regarding free agency and releases. The market pond is stocked with fresh fish, and anglers are lining up to boat the prized catch.

Adrian Peterson could be released Monday. DeMarco Murray is likely eyeing the deal Buffalo is reported to be giving to LeSean McCoy. That could start a chain reaction that push down the list a few talented running backs, and with them, their contract demands.

One intriguing name for the Steelers is Buffalo's Fred Jackson.

Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

With Buffalo very interested in running back Bilal Powell even after trading for LeSean McCoy, several contending teams are doing their homework on Fred Jackson, should he be released. Jackson is one of the all-time popular Bills players, but I wouldn't rule out an exit. Several teams were looking at film on him over the weekend waiting to see where this situation goes.

Jackson's availability makes sense. The Steelers' lust for a veteran running back is well-documented. The question really is whether Jackson is able to both accept a back-up role and physically hold up over the course of a one or even two-year deal.

C.J. Spiller isn't going back to Buffalo, and while he's clearly a better option in free agency, the Steelers aren't looking for a first-string running back. They need one who's ok with returning to the bench to be seldom-used after the first two games of the season, or for however long Le'Veon Bell's suspension lasts.

It seems logical to assume one of the first things the Steelers would mention to any prospective free agent running back is something along the lines of "we don't want to hear anything in October about you not getting the ball," followed by "we aren't signing you to share carries, we're signing you in case we have to use you."

Jackson turned 34 last night and there are concerns regarding his injury history. Considering his highest and best use this season would be as an early-season runner and not likely to take more than 100 touches, it seems wise to (apologies for the Fantasy Football phrase) handcuff him with a draft pick, one that can be groomed for the back-up role in the future.

Jackson may not carry with him a high price tag, but the Steelers can afford to give him a little over the minimum, unless they're preparing a 60-attempt passing game plan in Weeks 1 and 2.

Steelers fans saw in the playoffs what happens to their high-powered offense when it's completely one-dimensional.

Bringing in a capable running back is a must this free agency period, and depending on what happens in Buffalo, Jackson may be available.