For LaDainian Tomlinson, Winning Not Priority No. 1?
This article was originally published here.
Despite saying that he'd want to sign only with a team that is a bona fide contender, free agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson is now giving NFL teams a different pitch.
Tomlinson hinted that his career is far from over, that he sees himself playing football for up to four more years, and even said, "I don't have to win now."
This line of thinking is the thought process of a guy who still thinks he's an elite back, while every expert around will tell you that's the exact opposite of what Tomlinson is.
LT suggested that he'd be willing to latch on with a team that is "headed in the right direction," although the future Hall of Famer appears hell bent on hitting the bank (hard) and landing a starting gig.
Considering Tomlinson never reached a Super Bowl and hasn't had much success in the playoffs in recent years, it's interesting that he believes he can put off signing with a title contender, and just start for a bottom feeder for the next few years.
So, with LT clearly very open to signing with any team that is willing to pay, give him the majority of the carries, and has an outside chance at being competitive within the next few years, the end of LT's story as a free agent has likely been changed drastically.
Originally believed to be a candidate to play a situational role with a true contender lie the Eagles, Saints, Patriots, or Vikings, now it's time to open the door to Tomlinson going somewhere where he would be viewed as a starter, and an upgrade over a team's current set of running backs.
Considering the guy is 30 years old, averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last year, and has fizzled in the playoffs the last few seasons, that's extremely hard to buy.
However, he doesn't seem to think so, saying, "Did I get old the year after I won the MVP? I don't think so."
LT went on to say in his press conference on Wednesday that he "wouldn't become a Raider," and while he is pursuing a starter's contract and role, he didn't seem to be completely opposed to being a mentor or role player with his next team (eventually).
Regardless, we owe it to LT's excellent career (and to all the NFL fans) to take a good look at where he could end up.
In consideration of Tomlinson's latest comments, here's another look at some potential suitors, this time only including teams with which he could have a realistic shot as the feature back:
There's a rumor going around that Houston is LT's preferred destination, as they have recently added superior offensive line coaching and don't have a clear-cut starter at the position.
The fact that Matt Schaub helped orchestrate the best passing offense in the league in 2009 might have something to do with it as well.
This would be a nice fit for Tomlinson, as he's got all the tools to be a feature back (regardless of regressed skills) and would be a better full-time back than what they currently have.
However, Houston got burned the last time they tried bringing in a veteran back (Ahman Green), so it's very possible they simply add at the position through the draft.
Clinton Portis still has his starting job in Washington, but with knee and ankle injuries in the past few years (and head issues in 2009), his days could be numbered.
If he's released, all that's preventing Tomlinson from taking over is Ladell Betts. As long as Mike Shanahan sees that LT has something left (or more remaining than Portis does), this could be a deal worth making.
The Redskins would have an upgrade in their backfield (although it'd be arguable by how much), while LT would have the money (Daniel Snyder would oblige) and role he craves. And as bad as the Redskins looked at times in 2009, they actually aren't that far from turning things around.
It'd be interesting to see if LT could do better than last year's 3.3 yards per carry behind Washington's atrocious offensive line, however.
It sounds crazy, but perhaps the Lions are indeed only a few years away from being competitive. Head coach Jim Schwartz has the right idea and philosophy, the young, gusty quarterback, and a star receiver.
Now he just needs to start filling in the pieces. Add LT and whoever the Lions get with the second overall pick, and things could start falling in place.
As Drew Brees says: Crazier things have happened.
However, speaking of Brees, we still think LT sucks it up and goes to New Orleans and reunites with his former teammate.
For that to happen, though, Pierre Thomas will have to leave town (and probably the same for Reggie Bush), and LT will have to prove he's still got "it."
For more on LT and all other major player movement, head over to NFL Soup.
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