Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ladanian Tomlinson Era Ends in San Diego

I have to confess to being shocked by this--perhaps I need to get out more:
In a move that was fully expected but still feels odd to type, the Chargers released LaDainian Tomlinson Monday after nine seasons with the team.

The timing of the release was likely out of deference to Tomlinson's career. He can get a head start on most unrestricted free agents and talk to interested teams right away.

"It has been a privilege to work with him and witness his entire career," owner Dean Spanos said in a statement. "I'm proud of him and grateful to him for the way he has carried himself both on and off the field.

"He's a future Hall of Famer," G.M. A.J. Smith said. "My only regret is that he leaves without a Super Bowl ring."

Why release him? Why is the business of the NFL structured in this way? I have no clue. It's a free agency thing, and nine years on a running back's odometer starts to look risky. Not everyone gets to play as long as, say, Emmitt Smith, but few play as well as Ladanian Tomlinson has played and might still play.

Tomlinson's last two years look fairly bad on paper. A change of venue could help him if the new coaching system can be adapted to use him the way he can still be used--not to carry an offense but to add some depth to it. My guess is that the Washington Redskins will offer Tomlinson $40 million dollars for three years and use him like a fullback in the I formation--something ridiculous like that always seems to follow when the Redskins sniff at a fading, aging veteran.

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