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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Charger Update

Source: USA Today

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson agreed to a restructured contract, and he will return for his ninth season with the Chargers.

Among the team’s biggest offseason dilemmas was what to do with their future Hall of Famer. But Tomlinson agreed to rework the deal, which could cost him in years 2010 and 2011, and he’ll be leading the ground attack in 2009.

Tomlinson, the NFL MVP in 2006, will worry about the future in the future. Among the reasons he’s returning to San Diego is he feels the team is near that elusive Super Bowl championship.

“I think we’re very close,” Tomlinson said. “Obviously over the past two years we’ve been hampered a little bit by injuries. That’s been the unlucky part of it. I’ve got to figure that it’s our time. I’ve got to figure that this is not going to continue to happen to us where we get so close and get injured and really hurt ourselves in that way where we can’t be at full strength. When we’re at full strength, we’re a tough team to deal with. I think everyone has seen that in the past. I’m looking forward to being at full strength with this team.”

Tomlinson was slowed last year by toe and groin injuries, limiting him to a career-low 1,100 rushing yards, but that was still fourth-best in the NFL. Tomlinson also had 11 rushing touchdowns in an air-oriented attack that had run-blocking issues.

But the real issue the past two months was Tomlinson’s status. When the two parties virtually guaranteed his $6.7 million salary for the coming season, Tomlinson was glad to restructure the back end to lessen the team’s cap hit from his contract.

Tomlinson said he always thought he would stay a Charger, but there were times the dialogue became a little testy.

“From my standpoint, I remained optimistic about it,” Tomlinson said. “At the same time, I knew that it was a business and guys sometimes go other places. For that reason, I kept it in the back of my mind that I might have to. At the same time, I had to think that something would happen. As we kept continuing to talk about it, I became more optimistic that I would be here. I kind of figured something would get done and it did.”

The Chargers figure to enhance their two-back approach next season after already designating shifty back Darren Sproles with the franchise tag. The combination of Sproles and Tomlinson - plus Philip Rivers’ coming off a career-year - has the Chargers offense offering a diverse and explosive attack.

That includes Tomlinson, although he will be 30 by next opening day.

“I think I will continue to be a very explosive player,” he said. “You guys saw me last year where I was banged up all year, played with a hurt toe and obviously with the groin injury. I’ll be back to full strength and to being the L.T. that you guys are used to seeing.”

General manager A. J. Smith is seeing some cap room he’ll soon need in resigning Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, left tackle Marcus McNeill and possibly linebacker Shawne Merriman.

“L.T. has always helped us on the field and now he’s helped us off the field,” Smith said. “Now we have some cap room over the next few years.”


—The Chargers are anxious to learn which compensatory picks they will receiver for losing free agents Drayton Florence and Michael Turner as free agents last year.

—The team signed ILB Kevin Burnett, a free agent from the Cowboys. Burnett has four career starts and is productive on special teams. The last two seasons Burnett has played in the 3-4 for Wade Phillips, the Chargers’ former defensive coordinator. “It’s very, very similar,” Burnett said of the Chargers’ defense to what Dallas uses. “It’s a lot of the same calls. Obviously people do things different from team to team, but it should be a pretty easy transition.”

—Some speculate the Chargers are in the running to play the Thanksgiving Day game next season against the Cowboys in their new stadium.

—LT Marcus McNeill is on the mend after a February neck surgery. He said the operation will help him as he moves forward. “They cleaned it up so I wouldn’t have any problems down the line,” McNeill said. “That’s why we had the surgery.” McNeill, a two-time Pro Bowler, missed two games with the injury last year.

—If it’s March it’s time for the offseason workouts to commence. The rookies will report on March 23 with the veterans coming in one week later.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I couldn’t imagine putting on another uniform.” — RB LaDainian Tomlinson on the prospects of playing for another team after eight years with the Chargers.



1. Secondary: The team is seeking depth at cornerback and a possible fresh starter at strong safety. Antonio Cromartie has been put on notice at one cornerback spot; last year’s opening day starter Clinton Hart at strong safety saw him playing time diminish as the season wore on.

2. Offensive line: With Mike Goff, the right guard being able to leave, and Jeromey Clary, the right tackle, revealing blemishes in his game, the Chargers are keen on rebuilding this side of the line.

3. Wide receiver: Don’t be surprised if Smith makes a play for a wide receiver in the draft. There are concerns about Vincent Jackson’s off-the-field behavior and Craig Davis, a first-round pick in 2007, has either been hurt or inconsistent. Chris Chambers remains, but his production suffered in the second half.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Darren Sproles: Tendered at $6.621M.



—RG Mike Goff has been reliable and a hard-nosed player, but the Chargers have said he won’t be back.

—OLB Marques Harris was used on passing downs and has shown some promise, but he won’t be re-signed.

—C Jeremy Newberry was a valuable backup when Nick Hardwick was injured early last season, but the Chargers won’t re-sign him.


—WR Malcom Floyd (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) has a good connection with QB Philip Rivers and can be a solid red-zone target. Injuries slowed him some down the stretch last year.

—CB Cletis Gordon (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) surprised some by getting that tender as some of his shortcomings were exposed when playing extended stretches last year. But he is a solid special teams player and has potential as a returner.


—OT Jeromey Clary started for the first time last year and was adequate. But the team is looking to upgrade here.


—OG Kynan Forney: Potential UFA; $4.8M/2 yrs, SB unknown.


—LB Kevin Burnett: UFA Cowboys; $5.5M/2 yrs, $2M SB.


—RB Eldra Buckley (released).

—DE Igor Olshansky: UFA Cowboys; $18M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.

—LB Anthony Waters (released)