This is a story I will be following closely since I graduated college, TCU, with LaDainian Tomlinson. He also just happens to be my favorite player of all-time.
Will he be back in San Diego next year? All signs point to NO. After 10 seasons wearing the baby blue for the Bolts I believe it’s time that he moved on. Why? Because he is owed $5 million dollars on his contract next season and the San Diego Chargers don’t use him like a $5 million dollar man. Everyone thinks that LT has lost a step and is getting to the age, 30, that running backs break down. I for one, have watched him run with a critical eye. Everything I’ve seen points to a running back that desperately misses a blocking fullback, the I-formation, and a run blocking line. The San Diego Chargers have given the keys to the franchise over to Phillip Rivers and it’s obvious that they want to be a passing team. That’s not a knock on the Chargers, because they have to do what is in their best interest. But, to lose the face of the franchise might put a mighty dent in the fanbase. Did you count how many #21 jersey’s were in the stands on Sunday?
I believe we see LT and San Diego part ways amicably. LT has stated that he would love to finish his career in San Diego, but the direction they’ve taken the team seems to not allow that scenario. I envision LT going to a contender who still has an I-formation package with a nice run blocking line. Will he command big money? No, LT is chasing that elusive Super Bowl ring and knows he isn’t the elite back he once was.
So what kind of running back is LT in 2010? He’s a 15 carry/game back. He still has explosion and burst. He still has the great vision that will make him a Hall of Famer one day. He can still pick up the blitz. And he is a great leader in the locker room and in the community. So what is he lacking? He lacks the slashing cut backs. He no longer can make the jump cut and explode through the hole and get to the second level. Is that a major issue? No, that ability is what made him one of the greatest of all-time, but doesn’t make a great running back. Heck, Emmitt Smith wasn’t much of a slashing running back. He was a one cut get up the field back with great vision in seeing the open holes. This is why I believe that after a fresh start in a new uniform LT will continue to go after the all-time yardage record (owned by Smith). And did I mention no one, and I mean no one, scores TD’s like LT.
Possible teams and scenarios:
Houston Texans- The Texans have a mediocre backfield filled with smaller backs (Chris Brown the exception). This would allow LT to stay in the AFC and get back to Texas. Yes, the Texans are a passing team, but they were very balanced when Steve Slaton was running wild a year ago. Is it possible that the Texans locker room needs leadership to get them over the top? You bet. Could they use a power back in situations other than the goalline? You bet. Would Gary Kubiak love to give 15 carries to LT a game? I would think so since he used to run the ball with success back in Denver.
Seattle Seahawks- Yes I know they aren’t a contender, but this is a good football team that really needs some direction. Young and full of talent, they have lacked a running game since the days of Shaun Alexander. Hasselbeck desperately needs a running game to avoid taking all those hits. LT would get to stay on the West coast. Pete Carroll and LT have surely run into one another down in SoCal, so they may have a relationship. The Seattle Seahawks use a fullback in the I-formation still.
Tennessee Titans- Still a young team, but full of talent. Yes, all-world Chris Johnson gets most of the carries in Nashville, but they will be losing their physical back Lendale White to free agency. Would Tennesse be willing to decrease the amount of carries to Johnson and make way for 12-15 for LT? That may be something they look at because of Johnson’s smaller frame and the desire to keep him healthy for many years to come. LT would also bolster their locker room with his leadership.
New England Patriots- Belichick has been known to grab aging RB’s and plug them into spot duty. But is LT fit that mold? Lawrence Maroney has been an underachiever his whole career….Sammy Morris is mediocre….and they rely on Kevin Faulk wayyyyy too much (although he has been a fantastic utility guy his whole career). This could be a good fit. The offensive line is great and could open up some holes for LT to run. LT might like this situation because they are a certified contender and have talent at all the skill positions.
New York Giants- This could also be a good fit for LT. He gets to go to a contender who runs the ball and plays physical football. Brandon Jacobs has proven to be injury prone and Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t an every down back. I’m not sure the fanbase and LT are a good fit though. LT is a loyal guy and New Yorkers will turn on you the second a mistake is made. Plus, the NFC East is extremely physical and it may not be good for LT to have to grind out tough yards every week. I’m not a big fan of this scenario.
San Diego Chargers- They decide to keep LT and bite the bullet. They get stronger on the offensive line either through free agency or the draft. A year from now they can resign LT to a new contract at a significantly lower rate. The fans are happy. LT is happy. The problem, the $5 million dollars owed next year. Don’t you think that the butts he puts in seats will make up for that?
San Diego front office, did you see how many LT jersey’s were in the stands on Sunday?