Burner Turner ready to Bolt

General Manager A.J. Smith has built the San Diego Chargers into an annual contender by accumulating draft picks and using them wisely. When Junior Seau became too old and injury prone, Smith traded him for a fifth-round pick which he then used to select Michael Turner. Now, it is Turner who is on the block and several teams are interested in executing a sign-and-trade with the Chargers.

The Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills are both working to acquire Turner. The Titans lost incumbent starter Travis Henry in free agency while the Bills traded away Willis McGahee. Turner has recently met with Titans officials although no deal is imminent.

The New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys are reportedly interested as well. The Jets have already acquired Thomas Jones this offseason but could still use Turner to boost a rushing attack which ranked No. 20 in 2006. The Cowboys have two young, productive players in Marion Barber III and Julius Jones. If they trade for Turner, Jones would subsequently be put on the block.

The Jets and Cowboys are hot for The Burner because they have firsthand knowledge of his ability. Brian Schottenheimer is the offensive coordinator in New York and Wade Phillips is the new head coach in Dallas; both spent time with Turner during their stints in San Diego.

Turner set career highs in 2006 in rushing attempts (80), yards (502) and yards per carry (6.3). Most scouts believe he can produce 1,300-yard seasons on the regular if he stays healthy and lands in the right offense. Also, because he has only one career start, he still has fresh legs.

"I prepare myself as a starter each week," Turner said. "I go out there with a whatever-it-takes attitude. I have the speed to get outside and turn the corner and can run people over, too. Whatever it takes."

Whichever team acquires Turner will likely do so in a sign-and-trade. He is a restricted free agent under the highest tender, meaning it would take first- and third-round picks to pry him away from San Diego.

Instead, Smith may settle for less if the right offer comes along. After all, he only gave Turner the highest tender as a way to create leverage in future trade talks.

However, Smith is content to keep Turner if the right offer doesn't present itself. Not only does Turner provide injury insurance behind LaDainian Tomlinson, but those two present a dynamic duo. One of the team's most effective formations involves Turner in the backfield and Tomlinson in the slot.

"It forces teams to make a choice," said Tomlinson of the two-back line-up. "If they put a linebacker on me, then I can get the ball in space. If they walk a safety out, we can run the ball since they don't have as many players in the box."

A pair of prominent restricted free agents has been moved in sign-and-trades this offseason: quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Wes Welker. The Atlanta Falcons gained two second-round draft picks and moved up two spots in round one by shipping out Schuab. The Dolphins gained second- and seventh-round picks by trading Welker.

What the Chargers would get for Turner is likely somewhere in the middle. If Smith gets a chance to move up 10 or more spots in round one this year, while acquiring a conditional first-day pick in 2008, he'll likely pull the trigger.

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