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Monday, March 19, 2012
What Mike Tolbert's departure means

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

It was almost 12 hours ago when I first reported that San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert has signed a four-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. I ended the short post by saying I would have more on the story later.

I should have indicated it would be much, much later. I guess I got sidetracked by another little story that developed in the AFC West.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some thoughts on Tolbert’s departure:

I don’t like it.

Last month, I wrote the Chargers couldn’t afford to lose another running back. Last year, they saw Darren Sproles go to New Orleans and he was missed. So will Tolbert.

He is a stud in short yardage, he has nice hands, he is a fine blocker, and he is great on special teams. Winning teams have players like Tolbert.

Ryan Mathews will need a new complement. Two names to keep an eye on are Kansas City’s Jackie Battle and Oakland’s Michael Bush. Bush is getting interest from the Bengals, Bears and Seahawks. Perhaps the Chargers will join the party. Other running backs available include Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai.

The Chargers will see a lot of familiar faces when they play the NFC South in 2012. They will see Tolbert and Sproles as they will see recently departed star receiver Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay and will face former backup running back Michael Turner when they play the Falcons.

The Chargers' last real priority in-house free agent is defensive tackle Antonio Garay.