Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tomlinson may not get a better deal elsewhere

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

As the San Diego Chargers and longtime star running back LaDainian Tomlinson continue to talk about a restructured contract, a simple thought crossed my mind.

Would Tomlinson really be better off declining whatever the Chargers offer him and going out into the open market? Would another team really pay more than San Diego would for a running back who will be 30 in June and who has suffered injuries the past two postseasons?

It's not like Fred Taylor has been super hot (he has made two visits) since being jettisoned from Jacksonville last week. Tomlinson will be looked at like Taylor in free agency because of age.

I'd have to think Tomlinson will be worth more to San Diego than he is anywhere else. There's history there; a relationship. If Tomlinson goes on the market, there will be no emotional connection with a team like there is in San Diego, so teams may not feel the obligation to pay him like the Chargers would.

He'd just be another guy on the open market. Sure, there would be a market for Tomlinson but he likely won't get a huge contract. There are too many younger options in free agency and the draft to spend big on another team's legend.

Tomlinson is a Charger. That's where he belongs.

Still, he will likely be cut if he doesn't agree to a restructured contract. The two sides have been talking this week and it could extend into Friday or Saturday before a final decision is made.

We don't know what exactly the Chargers' offer will be but it will be less than the $6.7-plus million Tomlinson is currently due to make this season. It may be a gamble to take whatever the Chargers' offer him without knowing what the market elsewhere will be.

But know this: The Chargers ownership wants Tomlinson, the face of the franchise, to retire with the Chargers. The team wants to make it happen. So he will likely not be disrespected with a shoddy offer.

In the end, Tomlinson may want to realize the grass will be most green right where he is.