What has been a prevalent question since the Chargers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers ending the 2008 season, will undoubtedly be the biggest discussion of the off season. At least until something happens. That question is what is to become of LT?
If you ask most Charger fans what should happen, the answer is the Chargers should do nothing. He started his career with the Chargers and he deserves as much credit as anyone for where the team has gone since arriving in San Diego.
If you ask AJ Smith, he seems to have a different outlook. "I'm not looking forward to the things I have to do. I know bullets and shells are coming. It goes with the Job. I'm aware of the community. I know what the pulse is and I'm not afraid of it. I know I'm not 100 percent right. I'm not good at community relations. I know they're going to hate me. Nothing I can do about it."
That sounds a lot like a guy who has already made up his mind. Sometimes I think a guy like this is perfect to run your team because all he cares about is winning, but sometimes there is more to it, because only one team wins each year so if you aren't that team, there has to be more to your team.
LT's 2008 stats were the worst of any year of his career, but how bad were they really? He finished 10th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,100 with another 426 yards on 52 receptions. That may not be what we are used to from him, and they may not be the yards per carry he has had in the past; you can even point out that they aren't stats worthy of being the highest paid running back in the NFL, but the point is they aren't terrible.
It is easier to blame a running back when his yards per carry are down, but a lot of the time the line is to blame. A line can make a player (Yes Sean Alexander, I am talking about you) or it can keep a player from doing what he should.
LT was banged up all year and he ran behind a line that constantly let two or three guys hit our running backs behind the line of scrimage. In the past it may not have mattered. LT may have lost the ability to avoid everyone and to stay healthy because of the pounding he has taken over the years. He may have just had his first rough year with health.
What are the chances LT works his ass off this off-season because now he has a chip on his shoulder?
Beyond the question of whether or not he should be on the team, what are the options? They could renegotiate his contract...ok, that's fair. In the MLB, players make their money after proving themselves and usually get overpaid in their later years because contracts are pretty final. In the NFL, you have to make your money early because you can always get dropped.
Next option is to trade him, but what's his value? It isn't as the highest paid RB in the league, and it is definately the lowest of his life. A trade would undoubtedly involve the Chargers paying part of his salary (if not its because LT is willing to renegotiate, in which case they shouldn't be trading him in the first place).
So what do you get for a LT in a trade? You spend some money to free up cap space and maybe get some draft picks? A first rounder? I dont know.
The last option is to release him, and this seems like Smith's style (see Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison and Donnie Edwards). This could make free agent signing very tough in the future for the Chargers because who wants to sign for this guy? Who wants to join a team in which the GM is notorious for turning his back on anyone, because if you turn your back on arguably the best player to ever be a part of your franchise, then all bets are off.
It's hard to say the Chargers owe it to LT to keep him around, but the truth is, no one knows what's left in his tank. Regardless of who runs back their, the line needs some help. Here's one guy who hopes LT stays in Poway and continues to be the face of the franchise he helped build. Back when he was in his prime and the team sucked he said he wanted to win here, he wanted to make the Chargers a winner and he did.
Posted by Claytoris | 1/23/2009 11:54:00 AM | AJ Smith, Ladanian Tomlinson | 1 comments »