After 9 seasons with the team that drafted him, LaDainian Tomlinson was released by the San Diego Chargers. In all but 2009, he had yardage north of 1,000 and 3 seasons above 1,500 yards. He's averaged 88.6 yards over his career and has a respectable average of 4.3 yards per carry. Not too shabby. But after an incredible 2006, his numbers have steadily declined.
Let's face it, LT acts like a whiny superstar. How many picture can we conjure up of a helmeted Tomlinson, dark glass and all, "pouting" on the sideline? Tons, and I mean tons. But is LT the kind of talent that could give our backfield a kick in the shorts?
In a word, no. Let's break it down, shall we? Laurence Maroney is widely considered to be our under achieving young back, dashed high hopes in tow. Sammy Morris is a great utility back, but is aging. Kevin Faulk is, well, Kevin Faulk but like Morris, is aging. Fred Taylor was injured for most of the season, so it's hard to tell how he will contribute. Like the previous 2, he is not getting any younger. And finally, young buck BenJarvus Green-Ellis has done a fine job of filling in when needed, but he's simply not a feature back.
Then the news of LT being released hits the wire. 31'ish isn't old, but it's a matter of mileage, as The Boston Globe's Albert Breer points out:
Now, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald had an interesting blog post on this very topic yesterday, and made a great point: It's not age as much as it miles. He's right, too. The reason, for example, Marcus Allen produced in his mid-30s with the Chiefs was in large part because he averaged less than 8 carries a game in his last four years with the Raiders.
He further discusses another interesting possibility, Darren Sproles:
But since we're here, it might be worth pointing to another Charger running back that could be worth a look. Word is that San Diego, with a slew of restricted free agents to deal with (Shawne Merriman, Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill, Malcom Floyd), might decline to tender Darren Sproles, making him unrestricted. The complication with Sproles is that the Chargers franchised him last year at $6.621 million, meaning that to tender him as an RFA, they have to offer him a one-year deal at 110 percent of that figure ($7.283 million).
This is a VERY interesting possibility. I've always like Sproles, not only because of his fantastic kick return ability but because he drives the Colts absolutely bonkers. You gotta love any player who gives Colts fans hives.
LT? We're already old enough in the backfield. Sproles? Sounds like a plan. Finally, Wes Welker wouldn't be the shortest guy on the team.