LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably the greatest San Diego Charger of all time, signed a one-day ceremonial contract with the team on Monday and retired with the organization that brought him into the league as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Despite walking away at 32 years old, Tomlinson finishes fifth all time in career rushing yards (13,684) and second in career rushing touchdowns (145).
Tomlinson is a San Diego icon for reasons both on the field (such as his uncanny ability to shred the rival Raiders) and off it (like his many charitable endeavors). His departure from the Chargers turned bitter as Tomlinson struggled with the fact he had lost a step and GM A.J. Smith showed a glaring lack of respect for the player who lifted the Chargers from perennial doormats to a team that won its division five times between 2004-2009. To see both sides let go of the past and end things in this classy manner is a beautiful sight for Bolts Backers.
Many fans wanted Tomlinson to play one more year in lightning bolts, serving as the No. 2 back behind Ryan Mathews. Instead, most of Mathews' leftover carries will go to FB Le'Ron McClain. Meanwhile, Ronnie Brown, Curtis Brinkley and Edwin Baker will battle for the No. 2 halfback job. The backup halfback might not see many touches, however, if Mathews can show the durability and ball security that were trademarks of Tomlinson's Hall of Fame career.
A Year of Seasoning
CB Shareece Wright
As a rookie, Gilchrist was shuffled in and out of the rotation. He flashed good physicality and surprising ball skills, but at times looked completely lost. He is now penciled in as the starting nickel back, an elevation that will also mean more playing time for third-rounder Shareece Wright. Gilchrist and Wright have both earned strong reviews from Norv Turner for their work thus far in OTAs.
Mouton, who missed his rookie season with a shoulder injury, hopes to follow the footsteps of teammate Donald Butler, who missed his rookie season due to injury before bouncing back and making a huge contribution in Year Two. While Mouton may not join Butler in the starting lineup, he should allow the Chargers to give more rest to 35-year-old Takeo Spikes, who clearly wore down as last season progressed.
Don't Unpack Just Yet
The Chargers signed an unprecedented number of veteran free agents this offseason. Several of them, however, will not make the final 53-man roster. The list of new hires who should not be comfortable includes WRs Roscoe Parrish and Michael Spurlock; OL Mario Henderson and Rex Hadnot; RB Ronnie Brown; and TE Dante Rosario.
Brown, the team's latest addition, was the veteran running back fans spent much of the offseason clamoring for. But the Chargers may carry just four backs because of the versatility of McClain and Jacob Hester, so if a young runner like Brinkley or Baker steps up, Brown may be told to step out.
It is presumed San Diego will carry four tight ends and Rosario will be that No. 4. But do not count out fourth-year man Kory Sperry, who is a more complete player and still has a lot of untapped potential as a receiver.
Parrish and Spurlock are in jeopardy because the Chargers are loaded at receiver and many of those players can also return kicks, including incumbent kickoff return man Richard Goodman.
As for the offensive line, that won't be settled until Coach Turner sees what he has in youngsters like Steve Schilling, Colin Baxter and David Molk.
Where does L.T. rank among the all-time greats? Talk about it in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.