The San Diego Chargers find themselves in a very unfamiliar situation, at least as far as the last 10 years are concerned.
In search of a new running back to balance out their pass-heavy attack, a relatively thin market has emerged, made more unattractive still by the promise of a strong draft class.
Despite picking 28th in the first round, the overall depth of the position in the college ranks is such that the Chargers could easily find a strong talent in the second round.
Yet there is that one (of several, mind you) nagging question that comes along with replacing an icon such as LaDainian Tomlinson: What if the new guy isn't even half as good?
Proven talents at running back are more of a commodity these days, as teams gradually shift over to multiple-back sets or pass-happy offenses that see the guys in the backfield as more of a decoy than a weapon.
One of the happiest passing offenses in the league distinctly resides in Southern California, helmed by Norv Turner and Philip Rivers and headlined by All-Pro talents Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson.
However, management's focus is on balance, with Norv himself saying time and again that his ideal offense is a balanced one, where big gains can come just as easily through the air and on the ground.
Thus, here we are—with the Chargers weighing their options at the now supermodel-thin position (remember when they had LT, Michael Turner, and Darren Sproles?), contemplating free agency, trades, and the draft as part of one strategy that endeavors to find a suitable replacement for a certain Hall of Famer.
Enter Marshawn Lynch.
The Buffalo Bill was the featured back in upstate New York for the first two seasons of his career.
Last season, a bevy of issues both on and off the field relegated him to playing second fiddle to Fred Jackson, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2009.
This year, new coach Chan Gailey seems conflicted on what to do with Lynch, saying to reporters, “I hope we're able to take him and use him” in response to questions about his role with the team under the new regime.
Certainly, if the Bills are eager to trade, the Chargers would be willing to listen. But would it be a mistake?
Lynch, a Pro Bowler in 2008, was suspended last season for violating the team's inner code, resulting in three missed games.
San Diego GM A.J. Smith is usually a stickler for discipline, jettisoning CB Antonio Cromartie at first notice during this offseason, meaning Lynch would either have to get his act together or endure even more sanctions.
Then there's the issue of production.
The still-Buffalo running back's production dipped average-wise in 2009, going from 4.1 yards per carry in '08 to 3.8 last season.
He only carried 120 times but fumbled on three occasions, matching his fumble total for the previous two seasons, in which he carried a combined 530 times.
In Buffalo, Lynch might have been hampered by an ineffective offensive line, which ranked 28th in protecting the QB with 46 sacks allowed.
His protection in San Diego wouldn't be that much better.
The Chargers were hampered by injuries to their front line last year and now field two Pro Bowlers that are deemed injury-prone in C Nick Hardwick and LT Marcus McNeill.
The right side of the line isn't that much better, with oft-mentioned weak link RT Jeromey Clary pairing up with young RG Louis Vasquez.
If indeed San Diego chooses to pursue a replacement via the draft, then it would almost certainly do so in keeping with the team's philosophy and desired player profile.
Should a deal not be reached with one of the desired potential draftees, then the option of a trade, for Lynch or anyone else, would still be available.
Thus, at this point, giving up legitimate talent or draft picks for a player that very well might not fit in with the team or give you the desired production and leadership that a guy like Tomlinson provided, even in his diminished state, would definitely not be smart.
In fact—A.J., do yourself a favor and pull up Jahvid Best's profile again before you trade for Marshawn Lynch.
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