Well, the expected has happened: LaDainian Tomlinson, the face of the San Diego Chargers for most of the past 9 years, has been released due to a cost-cutting move (there is, currently, no salary cap for the 2010 season, so that's not the excuse). Do I like the decision? Of course not. Do I agree with it? Part of me does, but part of me doesn't. Sure, he had an off-year, but athletes are allowed those (aren't they?). That this is the third year in a row he's shown a decline and that he is over 30 years old is what sealed his fate, but I call bullshit.
Whatever... there's a small chance he'll resign with the Chargers, but I'm not holding my breath. So until something miraculous happens, I'm just going to assume that what's done is done, and I wish LDT the best in the remainder of his career. I can think of other Chargers let go because of cost-benefit analyses who wound up being effective players for YEARS after their release (Junior Seau, Leslie O'Neal, Drew Brees, Ben Leber), but in typical A.J. Smith fashion, such phenomena are ignored.
Anyway, there's now talk that the Chargers will trade Antonio Cromartie for a proven, veteran running back to fill LDT's shoes. That is the most likely scenario, followed closely by A.J. Smith's love for building through the draft. Outside of these two options, Chargers fans are (so far) relegated to pipe dreams.
However... there's a third option that I've been mulling since before the Chargers season so painfully ended against the New York Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs: acquiring a new backup (via whatever method) and reshuffling their existing roster.
Given that LDT is gone, the Chargers are left with Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett at halfback and Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert at fullback. Sproles is not an every down back (and might not be retained, anyway) and Bennett is likely to follow Tomlinson into "old man" territory and be released in the next couple of years (if not this one). Which leaves Hester and Tolbert.
Think about it. Hester is not a true fullback, and if one were to compare Hester to the other Charger running backs from the 2009 season, his closest comparison is... oh, snap... LaDainian Tomlinson. Tolbert IS a true fullback (a good blocker, a good runner, and a good receiver), and is a much better fit for offensive setups that require a bona fide fullback. Both runners place high on A.J. Smith and Norv Turner's list, and it's not inconceivable to me to see a HB/FB combo of Hester and Tolbert filling the San Diego backfield for a long time to come.
Is it likely? No, but I'm still surprised that no Chargers beat writer has presented the possibility.
We shall see, I suppose.
* This is the first part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that's happening over at The ...
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