Around the NFC West: Jackson's successor

Marshall Faulk was 31 years old and had 3,249 career touches when the St. Louis Rams used a first-round draft choice for his eventual replacement, Steven Jackson.

That was in 2004.

Jackson is now 28 years old. He has 2,507 career touches. His production has held firm in recent seasons; Jackson is riding a streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing. For those discounting 1,000-yard seasons in an era of 16-game schedules, consider that Jackson has gained at least 1,145 yards in each of the past three seasons. A runner needs at least 1,143 yards over 16 games to match the per-game average for a runner gaining 1,000 yards in 14 games.

Jackson has played well enough, in other words, for Rams coaches to give him the carries necessary to rack up 1,000-yard seasons by current and previous standards for the milestone. It's also true that Faulk was 28, Jackson's current age, when injuries and other factors began to limit his production. His production declined sharply from that point forward.

All of this came to mind while reading through draft possibilities for the Rams this year.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at some of those possibilities and has this to say about the Rams possibly drafting Alabama running back Trent Richardson: "Steven Jackson isn't getting younger, and there are a lot of miles on his tires. New head coach Jeff Fisher obviously believes in a strong, bullish running game. The RB position may be more important in STL than it is with other NFL franchises. Richardson is a tough inside runner, but he has the speed and the elusive moves to do damage on the perimeter. And he's a polished receiver; that's a real plus. Some NFL teams are of the belief that the RB position isn't as vital; they feel you can find a back later in the draft, and that there are better ways to invest your payroll money. Given Fisher's born to run mentality, I don't think the Rams subscribe to that view, but I don't know." Noted: The payroll issue isn't as big as it was under the previous labor agreement. A rookie wage scale makes it easier to consider all options earlier in a draft.

Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats makes the case that teams overpay running backs by about 50 percent.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic considers the salary-cap implications that would come into play if the Cardinals decided to part ways with Kevin Kolb. Noted: Kolb's contract is scheduled to count $10.5 million against the 2012 salary cap if the team pays a $7 million bonus to him and keeps him on the roster. Withholding the bonus would let Kolb become a free agent. In that case, the team would have to account for $8 million that was scheduled to count against the cap from 2012 to 2015. But cap rules would allow the Cardinals to push $6 million of that $8 million charge into 2013. The team would then realize a significant savings against the 2012 cap, helping create room for Peyton Manning, should the team reach agreement with him.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says re-signing receiver Josh Morgan could be tougher for the 49ers now that former San Francisco receivers coach Jerry Sullivan is with Jacksonville. Maiocco: "Jacksonville is expected to make a competitive play for Morgan once the free-agent signing period opens. Sullivan, who thinks highly of Morgan, was hired as the Jaguars wide receivers coach in January. Morgan is making good progress as he continues to work out at the 49ers facility after undergoing season-ending surgery in October to repair a fracture just above his right ankle." Noted: Maiocco also expects Ted Ginn Jr. to hit free agency. Ginn could have incentive to consider his options elsewhere after the 49ers shortened his contract and reduced his salary before the regular season, right before Ginn scored two touchdowns against Seattle in Week 1.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee considers reasons for the 49ers' reluctance to pursue Manning.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along a quote from 49ers general manager Trent Baalke regarding the newly re-signed Will Tukuafu. Noted: Baalke and the 49ers obviously wanted to hold up Tukuafu as an example to other young players on the roster. They have identified him as someone who has gone about his work the right way. Otherwise, a GM generally would not make a public comment regarding an exclusive-rights free agent.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle checks in with former quarterback Phil Simms, who thinks Matt Flynn lacks the physical tools for Seattle or another team to justify making Flynn a franchise quarterback. Noted: Simms has a history of criticizing quarterbacks who lack arm strength. He downplayed Andrew Luck as a franchise quarterback last year. I would be surprised if the Seahawks signed Flynn to a monster contract making Flynn the franchise quarterback. But I could see Seattle signing Flynn to a more modest deal if Manning wound up signing elsewhere. The team needs to address the position one way or another.