After LaDainian Tomlinson was released by the San Diego Chargers there was immediately Internet speculation about him joining the Green Bay Packers.
Subsequently, we told you why that makes no sense, but that didn’t stop none other than the San Diego Union Tribune’s Chris Jenkins from bringing up Green Bay as a potential destination for Tomlinson anyway. Jenkins also listed New England, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Here’s the case for and against the Packers, according to Jenkins.
Why it makes sense: The Packers could use a third-down back to replace injury-prone Brandon Jackson, and Green Bay fits the bill as a team capable of winning a title.
Why it doesn’t: Can you imagine this conversation? “Honey, we’re moving to Green Bay!” Plus, with Charles Woodson, Packers already have a future Hall of Famer wearing No. 21.
OK, well, I don’t think not being able to wear No. 21 or location is going to trump Tomlinson’s desire to win a championship, but the real reason we don’t think Tomlinson will land in Green Bay is his age and salary number. In other words, I just can’t see the Packers wanting to sign him.
Just in case you don’t remember, Sports Illustrated has a nice gallery of superstar running backs and what happened after they turned 30. Here’s a sample.
For eight years, [Eddie] George piled up the carries and the yards. Not once in his first eight seasons did he carry the ball fewer than 312 times or rush for fewer than 939 yards. That includes a decent season as a 30-year-old. But one year later, at 31, George mustered only 132 carries and 432 yards, retiring after that horrible season in Dallas.
Tomlinson will be 31 this summer, which brings me to a younger guy who would make a lot more sense as both a third-down and change-of-pace back for the Packers – Tomlinson’s former teammate, Darren Sproles.
The Chargers have decided they won’t franchise Sproles for the second year in a row, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Sproles is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which is something that can’t be said for an over-30 LT. He’ll be 27 entering the 2010 season and he can also return kicks, something the Packers are looking for.
So, why don’t the Packers run out and sign Sproles? Well, there will be competition from the Chargers who want Sproles back at less than the tender they’d have to pay to franchise him this season and other teams will surely jump into the mix.
Even if Sproles gets less than the franchise tender ($7.3 million), which is nearly certain, he’s still not going to be cheap. While it’s reasonable to think a guy like Sproles could be worth $2-3 million a year, there’s always the chance some offensively challenged team will come along and pay him $5 million.
Considering how many free agents Ted Thompson has signed during his Packers career, it would be hard to envision him getting into a bidding war for Sproles.
If the price is right, however, Sproles would be a huge addition for the Packers and a much better fit than Tomlinson.