The San Diego Chargers backfield is beginning to look empty after the team decided on Friday to allow veteran running back Darren Sproles the chance to test the free agency market.
This shocking and surprising move comes four days after the Chargers released LaDaninian Tomlinson. Sproles can now add himself to a list of departing players that may soon include defensive back Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie has been in the headlines recently amid trade rumors.
The Chargers' move not to tender Sproles was mainly out of financial reasons. Had San Diego sought to retain Sproles' rights, the team would have had to offer him $7.3 million for the 2010 season. A price that could be considered too high, especially with a draft class loaded with running backs.
The Chargers can counter any offer from another team given to Sproles, but that would be highly unlikely.
Standing at 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Sproles, a five year veteran out of Kansas State, was the Chargers' quick and speedy backup running back, and explosive return man. His first three seasons were spent on special teams, and Sproles missed the entire 2006 season while on injured-reserve after breaking his ankle in the first preseason game that year.
The small, yet speedy back would make his presence felt.
During the 2008 regular season, Sproles would rush for 330 yards on 61 carries and one touchdown. However, the postseason would be Sproles' moment in the spotlight. The Chargers' win against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2008 AFC Wild Card Playoff game showcased Sproles filling in for an injured LaDainian Tomlinson. Sproles would win the game for the Chargers on a 22-yard touchdown run in overtime. He would finish the game with 328 all-purpose yards, the third-most in NFL playoff history.
With Tomlinson and Sproles departing the team, San Diego will have to look to the draft, free agency, or via a trade to bolster a backfield that hosts 10 year veteran Michael Bennett as their only tenant.
Most could speculate that Chargers' general manager A.J. Smith will use the draft rather than free agency to find replacements for the two departing running backs. Smith is known for keeping his pocketbook tight during free agency and looking towards the draft as a way to find and develop solid talent.
Darren Sproles should not have a problem finding a team that wants him in such a limited free agent market this offseason. Whatever team he does end up playing for, you can guarantee that Sproles will make an instant impact.