Is LT running or being run out of San Diego?

Last week, the San Diego Chargers ended the LaDainian Tomlinson controversy by signing him to a new restructured three-year deal…or did they postpone an inevitable confrontation with their marquee star until next year.

Under the new terms of his contract, LT will receive $6.75 million as his base salary for next season, with a large roster-bonus payment being owed in March of 2010. At that time, the Chargers will have to decide if they want to pay him for another year of service.

Team President Dean Spanos played a large role in completing this contract agreement, as he couldn’t bear to see LT playing in another uniform this upcoming season. GM AJ Smith advised management that the team needed immediate salary cap relief in order to sign several key players (QB Philip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, CB Antonio Cromartie) to future contracts, and felt they should zero in on Tomlinson’s contract.

Smith hoped to use his abrasive managerial style to negotiate a restructured deal with Tomlinson. In a newspaper article (click here to read), he mocked LT’s wishes to remain in San Diego. Spanos had to step in and remove Smith from the negotiating team in order to complete this deal. Tomlinson publicly thanked him for his role in smoothing out their relationship during the process and also for their personal friendship.

Tomlinson turns 30 this summer and is eager to prove his explosive running style has not left him just yet. Defensive coordinators from opposing teams would agree, as they still respect LT’s running ability enough to employ an eight-man front on first and second down last season. This allowed Rivers to blossom into an upper-echelon passer, as he exploited single coverage for over 4000 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. And Rivers did this without a legit # 1 receiver on the roster.

The reports of LT’s demise are a bit premature, as he has only missed one regular season game in his career. Unfortunately, Tomlinson’s last two post-seasons have been cut short due to injuries. The uncertainty of his health raised the question if he would continue his career as a Charger. But the alternative is unthinkable for Charger fans…in their minds, he belongs in San Diego forever.

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