Could LT's days be numbered?
Not only are LaDanian Tomlinson's days numbered, but the clock could very well be ticking for the Chargers starting running back. With LT due to make nearly $7million for 2009, the team is already committed to paying back-up running back Darren Sproles over $6million. That's a heavy investment that the team does not appear to be comfortable with heading into the 2009 season.
On Friday March 6th, the team reportedly made a final offer to restructure LT's current deal. The decision now becomes LT to either accept the offer or likely be cut by the team before the end of the month. Who would have thought that in only two short years the 2006 NFL MVP could go from being untouchable to being cut by his team that he has publicly stated "his heart wants him to stay in San Diego."
In the past two seasons LT has carried the ball 607 times (303.5 carries/season), which is down from his normal 341 carries he averaged from 2001-2006. He also rushed for 2,584-yards, scored 30 total touchdowns, caught 112 passes, and added another 901-yards receiving.
These are hardly numbers for a back that is past his prime and over the hill, but LT did see his total numbers dip from 1,949-total yards in 2007 to 1,536-total yards last season. There's no question this was a significant drop, but injuries in 2008 played a big part in LT's decline.
Had the former back out of TCU not been so prolific in the early part of his career, his recent numbers over the past two seasons might not be so scrutinized?
Probably the biggest factor to consider in this whole drama is the Chargers failure in the playoffs the last two seasons and LT's noticeable absence.
When you are paying a superstar big money to perform at an elite level, he needs to be there when called upon, something that maybe the Chargers front office is considering in its decision and maybe why they won't commit the big money any longer.
It is highly unlikely anyone expected that the Chargers would ever come to this crossroad, especially with a player as popular as Tomlinson, but when he becomes injury prone and a non-factor in the postseason he then becomes dispensable.
It's likely two years ago, you couldn't find a soul in San Diego that would ever agree with this sentiment, but today maybe a whole new story.
While cutting or releasing Tomlinson would be viewed as a unpopular move, most fans in San Diego can understand and accept the business side, especially with Sproles emerging as a big play running back in 2008.
Sproles may not be the permanent answer for the Charger's future, but if the team is going to have a future they have to decide what to do about LT. It would be difficult for them to tie up so much money into the two running backs.
What makes this whole situation difficult is there has been no one better than Tomlinson since he entered the league in 2001. Over his eight seasons in San Diego LT has only missed one regular season game, but it has become evident that the years, carries, and punishment he has endured could be slowing him down.
Now LT will only be 30 this June and he has typically been a very durable running back having missed only one game (coaches’ decision) in the last eight seasons, but is he worth the huge price tag that he brings with him? He may not carry that kind of value in San Diego, but there could be some other callers that are willing to risk the dollars.
With some media outlets reporting that sources close to Tomlinson are indicating that he unlikely to take a pay cut, it looks like he could very well be gone. It does appear that LT's days in San Diego are numbered.
By David G. Ortega