One thing to remember about all contract negotiations is that a contract's terms aren't set to reward past performances, but rather to compensate for what a person is expected to do in the future. Sentiment changes how we think about this, but it's reality.
This is why many people are perplexed at the Chicago Bears' hesitance to sign RB Matt Forte to a big-dollar deal. He is young (turns 26 in December) and has a track record of production similar to Adrian Peterson. Forte is currently on pace to post 2,494 yards from scrimmage, a total that would be the second-highest single-season total in league history.
Paying him top-of-the-line money seems to be a no-brainer decision because there is every reason to think that his future performance will match his historical performance.
At first glance, that mindset doesn't look to be justified in the case of Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson. Jackson is much older (turns 31 in February) and his 2011 season production levels are much higher than what he posted in his previous campaigns. Since everyone knows that it is a bad idea to give extensions to running backs in their 30s, it's a no-brainer let Jackson walk after next season. Isn't it?
It's actually not quite that clear-cut. After reviewing a variety of historical and contemporary metrics, it turns out there is a case to be made that Jackson is an exception to that rule.
Let's start by establishing just how dominant a season Jackson is having. He is currently on pace to gain 2,454 yards from scrimmage, which is very close to Forte's near-record-setting level.