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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chargers will keep Sproles

Source: SD Tribune

The Chargers have changed their minds.

The team is placing a first-and-third tender on running back Darren Sproles, sources said Thursday morning.

Sproles had been notified last week the Chargers would not tender him as a restricted free agent and would allow him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent.

The move guarantees Sproles a salary of $7.27 million if he stays with the Chargers, unless the club can sign him to a long-term deal. He made $6.62 million last season as the Chargers' franchise player and is entitled to a 10 percent raise.

The Chargers' initial thinking in not tendering Sproles was that they couldn't justify paying a kick returner and third-down back that much. They had hoped to continue talking to him about a multiyear contract even as he tested the market.

A source said Sproles was scheduled to visit the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend and also St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington.

It is unlikely he will take those trips now. Any team signing him would have to give the Chargers a first-round and third-round pick.

Earlier Thursday, before the Chargers decided to tender him, Sproles said he was excited about free agency.

“I’m just ready to see who wants me,” Sproles said.

Sproles reiterated several times that his “first choice” was to remain a Charger.

“First, it’s San Diego,” he said. “Then it’s my teammates. The people in the locker room, that’s who I’m comfortable with. They know what I like to do; I know what they like to do.”

Sproles carried 93 times for 343 yards (3.7 average) and caught 45 passes for 497 yards in 2009. He has over the past two-plus seasons shown himself to be among the most dynamic runners in the NFL.

The Chargers clearly see the 5-foot-6, 185-pound Sproles as a kick returner and third-down back.

“It’s always been on my mind — how do other teams want to use me?” he said. “Is it just on third down and returning? Or do some people want to use me more? That’s what I’ve always wondered?”

Sproles and the Chargers had agreed to talk again. But first he was going to find out what other teams were willing to give him — in both playing time and money.

“I’m still thinking I can still be a Charger,” Sproles said. “That’s what I feel … This is where I want to be, so we’ll try to get something worked out. But if not, we’ll see … ”