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L.T. Era over in San Diego

It wasn't a surprise that the San Diego Chargers released running back LaDainian Tomlinson on Monday It had long been anticipated. Even Tomlinson told people he had played his last game as a Charger.

It's still a sad day in San Diego. Tomlinson wasn't just a great player who lifted that franchise, he was a solid contributor in the community.

However, there is a business side to the NFL that prevents a player of his caliber from ending his career with the team that drafted him. His diminished skills and large salary (he was due $2 million in March and $3 million in salary next season) made this a necessary move by the Chargers, who are either going to draft a running back or acquire one in a trade or free agency.

It was good the Chargers cut him before free agency started so he has plenty of time to look for another team (it's going to be weird not seeing L.T. in powder blue). The big question is how much interest will he attract? He did score 12 touchdowns last season, but he failed to top 1,000 yards for the first time in his nine-year career and his 3.3-yard-per-carry average was a career low. Because of his declining production, he may not have a lot of value on the open market.

He'll probably land somewhere (Houston is a possibility). But he won't get a big payday and he'll might have to accept a lesser role because it's doubtful he can still be a heavy-duty back.

No matter how it ends for Tomlinson, he will go down as the greatest running back of his generation. Few backs have ever been as versatile. In addition to a great runner, the future Hall of Famer excelled as a receiver and was a threat as a passer. Those all-around skills brought back memories of the late, great Walter Payton.

---Allen Wilson


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