LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer a San Diego Charger. In what’s already been a confusing off-season for the San Diego Chargers, they’ve decided to sign Norv Turner to a long-term deal and are instead parting ways with the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson. So where is the 30-year old, former MVP headed?
Tomlinson’s career numbers took a steep decline this past year, and his lackluster play caused the team to employ Darren Sproles more often. The 2009 football betting season was Tomlinson’s worst in his career. For the first time in 9 years, he failed to break the 1,000 rushing yard ceiling, ending the year with 730 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was also his lowest year in yards receiving, where he had a career low 20 catches for just 154 yards and failed to score as a receiver for the first time since his rookie season.
We’re used to seeing LaDainian burn defenses every which way possible, but in 2009 Tomlinson lost a tremendous step in speed, power and quickness. He seemed like a shell of himself this season, just three years removed from his record setting, 28 touchdown season in 2006.
The guy’s career has been nothing short of incredible stat wise, but it’s also noteworthy that the Chargers have never won an AFC Championship, let alone appeared in a Super Bowl during Tomlinson’s career. And while football is a team game, Tomlinson has never had a breakout effort in the playoffs to propel his team over the hump. This is still America and we covet winners. If the hall of fame was filled with guys that produced well, then Shaun Alexander would be a first ballot candidate. Sorry, but that’s not a football world I want to live in.
Tomlinson’s injury woes were a big problem for San Diego in the playoffs. In their best playoff run during 2007, the Chargers swept past Tennessee, crept past Indianapolis and then were blown out of the water by New England. Tomlinson had just 3 touches that entire game, gaining six yards.
Even worse, in the 2008 playoff run of San Diego, Tomlinson carried the ball just five times for 25 yards and a single score but was injured against Indianapolis and didn’t appear in the divisional game against the Steelers.
This season, against the surly New York Jets, Tomlinson had a pathetic 12 carries for 24 yards and 3 receptions for no yards. Does this sound like the playoff warrior that you want bolstering your 2010 Super Bowl betting odds?
The timing for Tomlinson’s release had more to do with money than anything else. He was due a $2 million roster bonus in March, so instead of fielding trades for the aging star, the Chargers simply released him. Now the market is open for a 9 year veteran who is just 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds with no speed burst. I remain pessimistic that Tomlinson will be able to give another team a boost, and I’m also unwilling to believe that he’ll accept a role as a third-down back.
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The main issue for LDT is that he’s not a banger. He’s a speed and finesse guy that has lost most of what made him a special player due to age and mileage. He’s not a goal-line guy and he’s hardly the player that can carry an offense anymore. But this is the NFL, and there’s always a desperate buyer out there when it comes to premium names. So who’s buying in?
Atlanta Falcons (9-7 SU, 11-5 ATS in 2009)
The Falcons already have Michael Turner, but they need a reliable third down option since Jerious Norwood is nothing more than glorified return guy. As a young team that desperately needs more veteran leadership in the locker room on offense, Tomlinson could find a home in the Dirty Dirty. Of course, the Falcons will need Tomlinson to prove he can be a more definitive leader like Tony Gonzalez, which is something he has not shown in his entire career.
Buffalo Bills (6-10 SU, 8-7-1 ATS in 2009)
Marshawn Lynch’s days in Buffalo seem to be numbered as he enters yet another offseason mired in legal troubles. Fred Jackson had a breakout year, but Buffalo hit all sorts of road blocks this season. Obviously, the bigger concern for the Bills is at quarterback. Still, with Tomlinson coming cheap and the Bills ranked just 16th in the league in rushing yards per game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the sinking Bills make an offer. Whether Tomlinson takes it is another story.
New England Patriots (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS in 2009)
The Patriots have long been a safe haven for wayward veterans like Fred Taylor and Cory Dillon and it’s no secret that they need a boost in the backfield. Ranked 12th in the league with 120.1 yards per game, the Patriots need to find some balance and seem more than comfortable using a platoon style backfield around Laurence Maroney than most other teams in need of a running-back. Tomlinson wouldn’t need to be a leader on Brady’s bunch, but it’s insanely improbable that he would sign with New England after being so openly hateful of Belichik and the Patriots during his tenure in San Diego.
New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl XLIV Champions)
The internet is buzzing that Drew Brees is making a case to bring Tomlinson in. Not exactly sure why they would. They already have three capable back in Mike Bell, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas which provide them perhaps the most dynamic rushing attack in the league that doesn’t involve the one-man brigade of Chris Johnson.
In all honesty, Tomlinson’s best days are behind him. He’s not a leader. He’s not a winner and he loves putting himself first because he simply want to prove he can be a game changer. The NFL is either headed towards a lockout and with so many teams leaking money like sinking ships, it seems irresponsible for teams to bring in Tomlinson when the championship caliber Chargers wouldn’t even want him. The 2006 MVP should walk off in to the sunset with his head held high…well, as high as a guy who never won a championship in a brilliant career can.
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