2010 NFL Free Agency: New York Jets Would Run Over the AFC with L.T.

Michael PintoSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2010

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Running back LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball against the New York Jets during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson left Minnesota on Thursday without a deal in place. His next stop was New York City and a meeting with the Jets brass.

L.T. is looking for the right fit—a place he'll be able to compete for a championship while playing a major role in the running game. That may yet draw him back to Minnesota and a contract to play alongside Adrian Peterson and Brett Farve.

But whether or not the Vikings 40-year-old quarterback returns next season remains to be seen. Farve is wavering on the same retirement fence it seems he's been teetering over since the turn of the millennium.

Without Farve, the Vikings aren't contenders. That's probably the main reason Tomlinson left the team without a contract in hand. Why should he commit to a franchise that doesn't have that same commitment from its starting quarterback?

In New York, the situation isn't muddled. The offensive line that set up the NFL's top rushing attack remains intact. Mark Sanchez will only continue to develop in his second season. As will Shonn Greene.

It's no secret the Jets are looking for someone to fill the void created by the release of Thomas Jones. Leon Washington is coming off a broken leg, and as a restricted free agent, may not return to New York next season; he's currently in talks with 49ers.

That leaves plenty of snaps for Tomlinson to shine as a third-down back behind Greene.

He would thrive in a situation like that.

At 31-years-old, L.T. isn't the same back who had 28 rushing touchdowns in 2006, but there's no denying he can still play.

Last season he rushed for a career-low 730 yards on only 3.3 yards per carry, but still managed 12 touchdowns. Tomlinson was also hampered by injuries for much of the year.

He is supposedly healthy now. If the Jets are able to convince him to join the show in New York, they'd shore up an impressive rushing attack.

With Greene taking the majority of the snaps and hits on his 23-year-old frame, Tomlinson would be free to enjoy limited snaps in key situations. He'll take the passing downs, and compete for short-yardage and goal line touches.

The Jets offensive line can open holes the size of craters, and the team is committed to the running game as much as any team in the league. New York rushed a league-leading 607 times last season—82 times more than the next team on the list.

L.T. would get carries. That's not the issue.

All he needs to accept is that Grenne's the starter, but that plays to his benefit anyway. At this point in his career, at his age, he doesn't need the bumps and bruises that come with being an every-down back.

The Jets aren't going to break the bank to convince him to join, but they'll make a reasonable offer and draw the line there. The decision then falls on Tomlinson. In New York, he'd take plenty of glory and half the pain. The Jets would be even more formidable on the ground than they were a year ago.

The question is, does L.T. want to be part of the best rushing attack in the NFL?

He should.


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