Speculation is running rampant that LaDainian Tomlinson has played his last down for the Chargers. The logic is easy to follow, as his numbers have dipped each of the last two seasons and the team could save upwards of $6 million by trading or releasing him. GM A.J. Smith has done little to quiet the chatter, telling the San Diego Union Tribune, "You're assuming that, if we have to move on, we're not capable of getting another running back."
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
If LT does not return, the Chargers could make a run at one of the New York Giants two free agent running backs, Brandon Jacobs or Derrick Ward. Another option is resuming trade talks with the Oakland Raiders regarding Michael Bush, who could provide the thunder to Sproles' lightning. If Smith waits until the draft, Knowshon Moreno (Georgia) and Chris Wells (Ohio State) are the top options available.
What in the name of Clancy?
Earlier this week, the Chargers announced that four coaches will not return next season. Secondary coach Bill Bradley and tight ends coach Clancy Barone were both released from their contracts, while the team announced that offensive line coach Jack Henry assistant secondary coach Kevin Ross will not be retained -- their contracts are set to expire in February.
OT Jeromey Clary
The Chargers are in the market for their fourth offensive line coach since 2004. Hudson Houck led the O-line that season and was succeeded by Carl Mauck (2005) and Henry (2006-2008).
The head-scratcher is Barone, as the Chargers received good productivity from their tight ends despite several obstacles. Antonio Gates finished second among NFL tight ends with eight TD catches despite never being 100 percent healthy thanks to toe, hip and ankle injuries. Brandon Manumaleuna was productive as a blocker, both in-line and in space, and Kris Wilson came on late in the season to play well in spot duty and on special teams.
What's a guy have to do?
The Chargers announced their team postseason awards earlier this week. Philip Rivers and Jamal Williams were co-winners of the Most Valuable Player award. Rivers was also the Offensive Player of the Year while Williams was the Defensive Player of the Year and the Lineman of the Year. Other award winners include Sproles (Special Teams Player of the Year) and Quentin Jammer (Most Inspirational).
It's difficult to argue with any of those selections, but some other players deserve to be honored for their fantastic seasons. Vincent Jackson set career-highs in receptions (59), yards (1,098) and touchdowns (seven); Stephen Cooper led all linebackers with four interceptions despite playing in only 12 games; and Mike Scifres shattered his career-best in net average (40.9 yards) before putting on a record-setting performance in the Wildcard game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003.