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John Gennaro
Chargers Blogger

John Gennaro

A die hard San Diego Chargers fan and writer for Bolts From The Blue.

Once a bolt, always a bolt

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It's the end of an era in San Diego, with LaDainian Tomlinson being released by the Chargers on Monday, but it's certainly not shocking. The comparison has been drawn between LT and Tony Gwynn in southern California, and both players stayed with their teams past their prime and were given the benefit of the doubt for probably too long.

That's fine. As a fan, I want the legendary players on my favorite teams to be given that chance to realize "I don't have it anymore" and hang it up before trying to find success elsewhere. Gwynn took that opportunity and retired having only played with one MLB team. Tomlinson will be looking for work this offseason elsewhere in the NFL, where he will try to win a Super Bowl ring.

As far as what he'll do in the future, it's hard not to call L.T. a little crazy. Tomlinson has two key goals when looking for a new home. He wants to be a big part of the offense, and he wants the team to have a legitimate chance of winning the Super Bowl in 2010. The problem with that plan is that L.T. is no longer capable of being a starting RB in the NFL, and would only be given that role by a poor team with hopes of selling some tickets. The 2010 Super Bowl contenders already have their starters, and probably their backups, written into the depth chart in pen.

There are a few places where Tomlinson could end up. In Houston, near L.T.'s hometown, with the Texans seemed like a great option until they came out and said they're only looking for free agents that are "young" and "on the rise". The Baltimore Ravens are a team that Tomlinson talked about joining if he was cut in 2009, but I don't see a spot for him there ahead of Ray Rice, Wilis McGahee or Le'Ron McClain. The New England Patriots are where most Chargers legends go once they're cut from San Diego (see Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison), but they would appear to have that "veteran RB" spot filled already by Fred Taylor.

I think the most likely spot for Tomlinson to land is with the Green Bay Packers. They're looking for a backup running back and are a young team that would appreciate veteran leadership. The Packers are certainly Super Bowl contenders. The question now becomes, would the Packers want Tomlinson? Money's not an issue with L.T., he'll play for the veteran minimum if he likes the situation, but he's never been very good in cold weather and his glory days came when he was running behind Lorenzo Neal. Would a team with a spread-offense, that plays a lot of cold-weather games, see any value in bringing Tomlinson in? Would they look at his receiving skills (which are not good) and his pass-blocking (which is even worse) and think that he might hurt the team?

Wherever Tomlinson lands, there's going to be sacrifice. He is probably going to have to abandon the idea of being a starter and making starter's money. The team he goes to is going to have to figure out how to use him enough to make him happy, but not so much that his flaws hurt the offense. Personally, as a long-time Chargers fan and LaDainian Tomlinson fan, I would've preferred to see Tomlinson walk off into the sunset with bolts on his back.

By John Gennaro  |  February 23, 2010; 10:03 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Free Agency , Green Bay Packers , New England Patriots , Running Backs , San Diego Chargers , Super Bowl Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Time to hang 'em up? | Next: A question of where, not if

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