They have two options in my eyes: Trade for a running back or draft one.
As far as not signing Sproles, that is the right call. He is going to want starter money and he is not a starter. He is a situational back and a good kick/punt returner. He isn’t worth the money to franchise tag and I don’t see a deal getting done in the near future.
As far as getting a new back in San Diego, we will first look at the option of trading for a back. The Chargers are looking to move Antonio Cromartie and they should get some interest in him; there are a few teams that could be interested.
The first team that makes sense is the New York Jets. If I were the Jets GM, this is a move I would try to make this deal happen. They already have a back who can take over for Thomas Jones in Shone Greene.
I know Cromartie had a bad year, but he was once a very promising cornerback. Cromartie paired up with Darrell Revis could be devastating on opposing wide receivers. This deal makes a lot of sense for the Jets, as they already have a young running back to take over and could improve their defense.
Another team mentioned is the Dallas Cowboys. They have three backs that they could move if they wanted to. It seems initial reports are leaning towards the Cowboys not being interested in this deal.
If this trade could be worked out, they would move Tashard Choice I would guess, as he gets the less time out of the three backs. The Cowboys would improve their D in this trade and lose nothing out of the backfield.
The last team that seems likely to make a deal is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have two good backs in Derrick Ward and Carnell Williams. They would probably move Williams, but the Chargers may shy away from this due to Williams' injury issues.
The Bucs would probably jump at this deal as they had one of the worst defenses all of last year.
The other way to go is through the NFL Draft, and this is the route I like more for San Diego. There are good backs in this draft and some will be there when the Chargers draft at 28.
The back that they should target here is Jahvid Best; he was the highest rated back until he hurt himself on a freak injury.
He had a good senior year before the injury, with 867 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, and 6.1 yards per carry in eight games. He has good size at 5’10”, 195 pounds, and the speed with a 4.42 40-yard dash.
He is also a big star in the state, as he stared at the University of California.
Jonathan Dwyer is another running back that they should look at. He is a junior and he had an outstanding year with 1,395 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns, and a 5.9 YPC average. He has the speed as well with a 4.48 40.
The only issue here is he would be coming out of an option offense, so a transition could take some time.
Two other backs that they could look at later is Joe McKnight, who is comparable to Best in his speed and size. He is also known as he played at USC.
The other back they should look at is LeGarrette Blount. He had his off the field issues but he was a top five back before this year. He could come in and make an immediate impact.
The Chargers should look to the draft so they can get younger and get someone who will be there for a long time to come. Unless they get the right player in a trade or plan on getting a older back so they can develop a draft pick, they should just go through the draft.
It remains to be seen if they are better today then they were yesterday, but they have some good options and it should turn out fine.