Will LaDainian Tomlinson Be Sainted Soon?

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIMarch 8, 2009

As ridiculous as it is to ponder, it's looking more and more like LaDainian Tomlinson will not be in San Diego this year, as he and the Chargers have a different idea of his value to the team.

It's hard to imagine why the Chargers are taking a hard-line stance with their career rushing leader, asking him to take a pay cut from his scheduled $6.7 million salary.

Since he was drafted fifth overall in 2001, all the guy has done is rush for 11,760 yards and 126 touchdowns.

Apparently, Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith thinks Tomlinson is on the decline, because he has been hindered by injuries since the 2007 postseason and will turn 30 on June 23.

Tomlinson has said he is open to a restructuring of his contract, and wants to stay in San Diego, but he also has admitted that there is a chance he won't be there. His mother recently expressed doubt that he would be back for a ninth season.

If he has to leave, there is one place that would be perfect. Imagine a reunion with another guy the Chargers showed the door a few years ago, Drew Brees.

Imagine Tomlinson and Reggie Bush—two of the best pass-receiving backs in the game—in the same backfield, with Brees throwing the ball.

Imagine Tomlinson as a New Orleans Saint.

Brees already has—and has told Tomlinson so.

"I mean, come on, it's an easy question," Brees said in a recent interview with a San Diego radio station. "I'd love to have him in New Orleans. I'd love to be his teammate again. I think L.T.'s got a lot of great years left in him, so we'll see what happens.

"I don’t think he should accept less money from the Chargers at this point," Brees said. "Because look at his track record. Many people could say he had a decline this year, but I disagree with that. He was banged up for the majority of the year, and I think that’s just part of the game at times.

"I mean the guy hasn’t missed one start his entire NFL career, so if you’re going to sit here and tell me he’s not a durable guy, then you’re crazy. Like I said, I think he’s still got a lot of motivation. I think he’s got a lot of fight and fire left in him and he can still be a very productive player. So I don’t see any reason why he should be taking a pay cut at this point.

"If you look at it just for football, for the game, I think it's best that he remains a Charger," Brees said. "Because he's been the heart and soul if this organization for eight years. For him to have to go and play elsewhere because the organization isn't willing to pay him what he deserves right now, I think that's a shame."

But if the Chargers do let him go, Brees is ready to recruit him hard.

"I’m just waiting for the opportunity, if he is available, to come and snatch him."

Led by Brees, the Saints' offense was the best in the league last year, leading the NFL in yards (410.7) and points (28.9). And that was without Bush for most of the season.

Imagine what Brees could do with two healthy, multi-talented backs like Bush and Tomlinson. Sean Payton's offense could be one for the ages.

There surely would be other suitors for Tomlinson if he came free. Other destinations that would make sense include Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville.

But, if for some ridiculous reason the Chargers let him go, just imagine him with the New Orleans Saints.

For more from former newspaper sportswriters Chris Cluff and Elliott Smith, visit outsidethepressbox.com.