Fred Jackson fits right in with these Seahawks.
And not just because their newest running back is a proven, third-down back they need for their passing game. Or just that he’s best buds with Marshawn Lynch.
The 34-year-old Jackson went undrafted in 2003 out of Coe College, a Division-III school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He becomes the fourth member of Seattle’s five-man stable of running backs to go undrafted with the one-year contract. The Buffalo News reported it is worth $900,000, $30,000 above the minimum for a veteran of his tenure.
Jackson is the 28th member of the Seahawks’ 53-man roster for Sunday’s opener at St. Louis that was either a seventh-round draft choice or wasn’t drafted at all.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“This team is made up of a bunch of guys who have come to prove something,” coach Pete Carroll said.
“He comes from Coe College. He’s been battling his whole life to prove it, and I think it’s a guy that really fits in and will fit in with the makeup of this team.”
That makeup is, of course, by design. It’s what keeps the Seahawks able to retain their core players under the NFL’s salary-cap system, one that is designed to prevent teams from stacking Super Bowl appearances.
This season Seattle is trying to become the first team to reach three consecutive Super Bowls since the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills. That Bills run ended a year before the NFL’s salary-cap era began.
Jackson was with Buffalo more than a dozen years after that, from 2006 through last Monday. He shared the Bills’ lead-back role with Lynch in 2009 and the first part of 2010, after which the team traded Lynch to the Seahawks.
He became Buffalo’s main man, on and off the field, from the Lynch trade until the Bills signed former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy this offseason to replace him.
“Aw, man, the fans in Buffalo are tremendous,” Jackson said Monday. “The reactions that I got from them was something that as a player you hope to get. That you affected a community, a team, an organization, to where the fans respect you so much, I got that accomplished. And I love every bit of it.
“Those fans will always be in a special place in my heart for it, and I genuinely and whole-heartedly appreciate everything that they’ve done for me.”
Yet Jackson already feels similar warmth in Seattle, after just one practice with his new team. That’s because he’s already in the majority, one of 53 percent of his kind on the Seahawks’ roster. And because Carroll and the Seahawks called him within minutes of his release from Buffalo last week
“Once it was announced that I was released and it hit the wire, I got a phone call immediately. You know that’s the type of things as a player you love to see,” Jackson said. “When a coach reaches out, or an organization reaches out to you like that and lets you know they’re interested, you want to go to the first organization that lets you know it. That’s how Seattle treated me.”
That’s why he chose the Seahawks and their barely-over-minimum offer rather than sign with Super Bowl-champion New England, which also called him soon after he got cut — and also could offer a strong chance this season at him playing in a playoff game for the first time in his career.
“Like I said, I’m excited to be here,” he said. “This is a place that knows how to win, a great coaching staff, great organization, and one that I’m excited to be a part of.”
The Seahawks have a roster top-heavy with stars taking up the bulk of the salary cap space. Nineteen percent of its roster — 10 players, in order of pay: Richard Sherman, Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Russell Wilson, Brandon Mebane and holdout Kam Chancellor — take up 55 percent of its $141,874,595 in cap space for the 53-man roster this year. That doesn’t include so-called “dead money” Seattle is paying against the cap for players it no longer employs.
The Seahawks’ roster is also bottom-heavy with the inexpensive — and motivated — seventh-round draft choices and undrafted players. Twenty-seven players, more than half the roster, count $665,000 and below against this year’s cap.
That list starts with defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs, a defensive lineman they claimed off waivers last season from San Francisco, through Drew Nowak, the new starting center who will make his NFL debut at the position Sunday. Nowak is replacing traded, two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger. Unger counted nearly 10 times Nowak’s cap number against Seattle’s last season at $6.1 million.
That’s how the Seahawks keep their young core together, by paying only those in it the big bucks and having a tiny middle class. The majority of the roster is from the league’s proletariat income bracket, just above minimum salary.
And not just the young players eager to prove.
Guys like Jackson.
“The best thing that could’ve happened to me happened,” he said of his Buffalo release and Seattle signing. “You know, I got to come to a great organization with open arms. And I’m here now and I’m excited about it.”