After a short free agent tour that saw him take trips to Minnesota and New York, LaDainian Tomlinson flew home to San Diego to mull his options and has chosen to join the New York Jets in 2010. Reports indicate he will sign a two year deal for over $5 million.
Tomlinson was looking for a chance to play on a contending team in 2010 but also wanted to be in a situation where he had the potential to get 10-15 carries a game. It should come as no surprise that he chose to sign with a Jets team that relies heavily on the run and features a much less proven No. 1 guy relative to the Vikings. The Vikings also sport a solid passing game with Brett Favre at the helm.
The Jets were in the market for a veteran back after failing to renegotiate the final year on Thomas Jones’ contract and watching him move to Kansas City. Tomlinson’s signing may also be an indication that the team is concerned about Leon Washington’s recovery from a broken right fibula.
With Washington also a restricted free agent, the move to acquire Tomlinson now allows the Jets to consider taking draft pick compensation if another team signs Washington to an offer sheet they deem to be excessive. Washington was tendered at the 2nd round pick level.
Reports out of San Francisco indicate the 49ers are interested in a running back who can returns kicks. Washington is another logical destination for Leon Washington.
In New York, Tomlinson joins a Jets team that led the league in rushing in 2010 with 2,756 yards and carries with 607, 140 more than the Vikings. Clearly, the Jets represented his best opportunity to get on the field and this in turns positively impacts his fantasy value.
Unfortunately he is coming off the worst year of his career with 730 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns while averaging 3.3 yards per attempt. In addition, he had just 154 yards receiving, well off his career average of 475 entering the season.
Fantasy wise the issue is, what does he have left? In considering Tomlinson’s performance, what is often overlooked is the deteriorating play of the Chargers’ offensive line over the last two seasons.
The Jets possess perhaps the league’s best run blocking offensive line. Last year, counting the game where Washington was injured, Shonne Greene averaged over 10 carries per game backing up Jones. Expect Tomlinson to average at least that many touches due to his superior receiving ability, something that kept Greene off the field in certain situations.
Tomlinson figures to approach but not exceed the 730 yards he had in 2009 with fewer than the 12 touchdowns he posted last year. Look for 600-650 yards and four to six touchdowns. If Washington goes elsewhere, Tomlinson also becomes the team’s receiving back. For Greene’s owners, he is a must have handcuff.
Greene was pegged as a low end RB2 with upside and he slides down a couple of spots in the rankings. He remains a solid option in all fantasy leagues but his value takes a hit due to the acquisition of Tomlinson and his lack of touches in the passing game. Greene failed to catch a pass in the regular season as a rookie. He caught one in three playoff games.