What it do New York? - Free Agency Diary 4: LaDainian Tomlinson

John GustafsonContributor IMarch 25, 2010

by John Gustafson, john@fantasylion.com (if you missed my announcement about the 2010 NCOFF, click here)

One of the all-time greatest RBs, LaDainian Tomlinson (what it do?) is headed to the Big Apple. For the last few years, I’ve criticized LT… long before his disappointing 2009 stint. I was a huge fan and extremely disappointed when he ducked out of some playoff games down the stretch because he was dinged up while some of his teammates who were also nursing injuries continued to play. It gave me the impression that LT was not as serious about winning as he was leading on and I began to develop a conspiracy theory about him. I wrote this back in September…

About 3 years ago I started to think something was up with LT, but I figured it was because all his years were starting to catch up with him so I gave him a pass. But in the 2007 playoffs something didn’t sit right with me how the Chargers are a game away from the Super Bowl and LT is out of the game vs the Pats and looked to be pouting on the sidelines while Phillip Rivers who had the same knee injury is out there playing his heart out. My suspicion became a full blown conspiracy theory last year when LT pulled more of the same crap. If he isn’t 100%, healthy he won’t play?! Well maybe because at this point in his career all LT cares about is the the rushing record. I know my theory can never be proven but I swear the Chargers have an agreement with LT that goes something like this… “

Chargers: Ok LT we know you want to break that record and we want you to break that record because our franchise doesn’t have a lot of accolades to hang our hat on so we’ll pay you what you’re asking but we want it understood that we are going to do our best to win even if you aren’t in the lineup. So you play when you feel like it, but we have 52 other guys that still care about winning so we will cover up for you with excuses (injuries) because of your preference for an individual award over a team goal.

LT: Deal.

I know that my theory will probably piss a lot of people off, but hear this, if going to the Super Bowl meant anything to this guy that, then he would of played in that 2007 AFC Championship game. He was 1 game away from the Super Bowl and he let his team hang out to dry without him. I used to hate Philip Rivers, but I became an instant Rivers fan that day and LT hater when Rivers is hobbling on 1 leg playing his heart out while LT is hiding under his helmet and covered up in his team parka. That more than anything tells me that the guy is more concerned with his own personal health and personal achievements than winning. And then what happens after the game, the Chargers holding true to their agreement, create an excuse for LT with Coach Norv Turner saying that he held LT out because he felt they had a better chance of winning with a healthier guy… YEA THE EFF RIGHT!! This would of never happened with guys like Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Elway and even dare I say, Brett Favre; they would have to have had blown out knees to keep them off the field. Then again last year, in the heat of the playoffs LT comes up lame and doesn’t play hurt…how convenient. And what do you know? It’s 2009 and just when LT’s team needs him the most, he has this to say “I’m not going to go through what I went through last year, playing at 70 percent,” Tomlinson said. “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to make sure it’s healthy and where I need it to be in order to help this team. We have great depth right now. We’re in good shape.” That’s all fine and good, but what I hear is, “the Chargers don’t really need me anymore, did you see my man Sproles last game, he had twice the game then I could of had, man I got the best seat in the house! Play hurt? Ha yea right, I’m gettin paid and chillin in the shade.”

Sorry to go off on this guy, but I’m sick of this ish. Sorry if I offended any LT fans. I loved the guy but I’ve been so disappointed the last few years and feel like he puts his own personal objective ahead of his team, but no one will come out and say that, well except me, but who am I?

War Rivers, War Sproles, Go Chargers! LT enjoy your view from the bench, who needs you anyways? And when you break Emmitt’s record 5 years from now, I still won’t care because that record belongs to Barry Sanders anyways.

With all that said, I was shocked the Chargers split ties with LT. Never in a million years did I think they’d do that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great move for the franchise, but it’s gutsy as hell. Considering my theory about the Chargers keeping LT just until he broke the record, it would take LT almost another 6 years to break Emmit Smith’s record (assuming LT gets 300 yards a season and can maintain at least an average of 3.5 yards a carry which is a stretch because his yards per carry has fallen almost a yard per carry the last 3 years). That’s too long for the Chargers to hold on to him for just that reason so they disposed of him. I like the move. He’s not a lead back anymore and they already have a great, younger, faster 3rd down back in Darren Sproles. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers bring someone in or roll with Mike Tolbert. If they bring someone, it will likely be through the draft as the pool of current available RBs is drying up. There’s a lot of speculation of (my alma mater) Fresno St’s Ryan Matthews going to SD. He’d be a good fit.

As far as the Jets, LT was probably brought in for two reasons. One, as the 3rd down back and security should Leon Washington not be fully healed from the leg injury he suffered last year. The second reason is to mentor the younger Shonn Greene and aforementioned Washington. If LT is comfortable in these roles, this is a great move. It will be interesting to see if you can swallow his ego and do that.

From a fantasy perspective, I have to agree with FantasyDC.com’s Mike Clay. Earlier today he tweeted a projection of 265 carries for Greene, 150 for LT, and 100 for Washington. That sounds about right, I’d agree. Last year the Jets RBs only had a combined 28 catches out of the backfield. Most of those went to Leon Washington (15 receptions) before he went down with an injury. He accumulated those catches over a 6 game period so he averaged around 2.5 catches a game. LT is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and with Sanchez being a sophomore QB the receptions out of the backfield should go up. I’d go as far to say that they’d double. My early projection is that Greene will catch around 10 balls, LT 15-20, and Washington 10-15.

Would I pick LT next year? Probably not. He’ll only have good value should something happen to Greene. I don’t expect LT to challenge Greene for the starting role. Thomas Jones rushed for almost twice the yards LT did in 2009 and the Jets had no problem letting him go. This tells me that LT is not in the running for the Jets starting RB position. I would only consider picking LT if I got him around the 12th round or so as my 4th or 5th RB with the hope that I’d be able to get a start or 2 out of him should Greene slow up with an injury. I don’t think LT is done, but he’s not the same back he once was. Should he get a chance to start, he’d likely be able to grind out some good numbers behind the Jets excellent offensive line. 

In other news, the Jets have been selected for HBO’s Hard Knocks. Now I’m not the biggest Jets fan, but I am a fan of good tv. Rex Ryan, LT, Mark Sanchez, Darrelle Revis, some rookie I’ve never heard of scrapping for a roster spot? Sign me up!

Oh and one last thing… Someone asked me if I felt Shonn Greene should have to apologize for LT for mimicking his “TD flip” in the AFC Divisional Playoff game last year in SD. My response, absolutely not. I doubt Greene did it to disrespect LT. He probably did it to show the SD fans that their heavily favored Chargers would be watching his team play the Colts, not theirs. Who knows what his motives were? I don’t know the guy. Looking back it was pretty ballsy and kinda cool for the rookie to flash some swag like that. Can’t blame him though, he had the stats to back it up that day. In case anyone forgot what I’m referring to, let this refresh your memory. I’m excited to see what Greene can do in 2010, hope he doesn’t disappoint!