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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Tomlinson to stay in San Diego with reworked contract

LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers were able to come together on a restructured contract that allows the running back to stay in San Diego.

LaDainian TomlinsonThe deal, which concludes nearly two weeks of contract talks, will also allow Tomlinson to make the $6.725 million he was scheduled to earn this season. That amount was originally in base salary, but has been restructured to be part signing bonus and part salary to help the team create room under the salary cap. Tomlinson’s pay for this season had been a sticking point because his backup, Darren Sproles, is scheduled to make $6.6 million this season as a result of the one-year tender for being designated with the team’s franchise tag.

As part of the deal, Tomlinson also reworked the final two years of the contract to help the Chargers. Tomlinson will reduce his base salaries of $8 million in 2010 and $9.275 million in 2011. Tomlinson will be able to earn the money back in incentives. In addition, some of his contract will be converted to a roster bonus payable in March 2010, forcing the Chargers to have to make an earlier decision on whether to keep him.

“I love San Diego and being a part of this team with my teammates,” said Tomlinson. “My No. 1 priority was to stay here in San Diego. I truly believe this is the place that gives me the best chance to be successful and win a championship. I want to finish the job we started when I got here eight years ago. My heart has always been in San Diego. I couldn’t imagine putting on another uniform.

“I really appreciate the role Dean played throughout this process. He made it work for everyone, and I appreciate his friendship more than he knows.”

Good to see this deal get done. Just because LT didn’t put up LT-like numbers last year, doesn’t mean that he’s done. With a full offseason of rest, he can join Darren Sproles again in San Diego’s backfield next year and hopefully have a bounce back season.

But what I want to know is – where is A.J. Smith in all over this? How big (or small) of a role did he have in re-working this deal?

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