Posted on: February 5, 2010 8:35 am

Forward-looking thoughts on Tomlinson

With the news that San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson believing that he won't be back in a Chargers uniform next season, it's time to re-evaluate him and what his options are.

Let's begin with an assessment that many people who I've spoken with this week agree on: Tomlinson simply is not the same running back that he once was. Can he still digest a playbook, catch a pass, set a block and find the end zone? No doubt. Can he run? Not with as much consistency as he could as little as three years ago. Does he still have breakaway speed? If he does, he hasn't shown it lately. The overriding belief is that Tomlinson can still be an effective back, but not for nearly the amount of work he'd like. He is -- at best -- a tandem-situation running back.

So, who could use a split-time rusher with a wealth of experience? Lots of teams, but you can be sure that Tomlinson won't chase dollar Bills like Terrell Owens did last year and sign with a team with little chance of making the postseason. Tomlinson, like most other players, wants a championship. He'll want to play somewhere where that can happen.

With those parameters in place, here are some candidates for Tomlinson upon his release from San Diego (in alphabetical order):

Houston: They're on the brink of competing for at least a wild card berth, and they'd have to win every game possible just to have a shot at breaking the Colts' hammerlock at the top of the division (beating them sure would help). Tomlinson has the skill set to be successful in Houston, and he's a Texas native to boot.

New England: Bill Belichick loves veterans looking for a final shot at glory, and there's no doubt that he has profound respect for Tomlinson. Whether or not he has respect for Tomlinson's skills is another story altogether, not to mention having the space amid a crowded running back corps for him.

Philadelphia: If Brian Westbrook is headed the way of Isaac Bruce and Kurt Warner, then Tomlinson would be a neat one-year insurance policy in case LeSean McCoy can't pick up the slack. True, this would be a nightmare for Fantasy owners who are waiting for McCoy to pop in 2010 but the Eagles weren't shy about using three backs last season and could easily do it again. Like in Houston, Tomlinson has the right skill set for the Eagles.

Pittsburgh: Tomlinson wouldn't have much of a chance to start with the Steelers, but being a 10-carry-per-game guy behind Rashard Mendenhall would be a nice fit for him. He'd be a heck of an upgrade over Willie Parker.

There are other spots too -- Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle -- that could be interested in Tomlinson, but they're not playoff contenders.

And there's one last place where L.T. could be wanted -- maybe -- and that's San Diego. Norv Turner was mum on the L.T. topic with me when I asked him about it last week, but Tomlinson is the one saying he'll refuse a pay cut. It's not a case of the team saying "get outta here." If Tomlinson did an about face and accepted an, ahem, salary correction, then he'd probably get a chance to stay and maybe even get 250 touches. And last I checked, the Chargers were a playoff contender.

Seems like a great fit to me.

Posted on: January 27, 2010 4:32 pm

Norv won't speculate on L.T.

I've done my fair share of speculating on LaDainian Tomlinson over the last two seasons. The Chargers' rushing legend and future Hall of Famer is no longer the one-man Fantasy wrecking crew he once was. Sure, he was a touchdown magnet in 2009 but his rushing yardage -- along with his workload -- has dwindled.

So when I had the chance to ask Chargers head coach Norv Turner about Tomlinson after Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, I jumped on it.

After asking him about free-agent-to-be Vincent Jackson ("We want Vincent on our team for a long time.") and tight end Antonio Gates ("He was the healthiest he's been since he hurt his toe in the playoffs two years ago."), I simply asked Turner what he'd like to see happen with Tomlinson this offseason.

"Well, that's a hard question," Turner said. "The best thing our organization does is step back and wait three or four weeks. We have a lot of meetings we're going to go through, and we're going to evaluate everything about our football team. There are some tough decisions we have to make."

I found it odd that he didn't mention Tomlinson by name, nor did he say rhetoric about L.T. being under contract heading into the offseason. He just talked about "tough decisions."

Tomlinson is technically under contract for two more years: $3 million in 2010 and over $6 million in 2011, according to the NFL Players Association. He also has a $2 million roster bonus due in March. It's not entirely out of the question to think the Chargers won't keep him in 2010, but keep in mind that San Diego also has to formulate a plan for what they want to do with Sproles as the speedster is a free agent come March 1.

Perhaps the Chargers can't find a place for Tomlinson until they get the situation with Sproles figured out first. Or, they already know what the future holds for Tomlinson there and it isn't amicable.

Either way, Turner's lips are sealed.

Posted on: January 22, 2008 11:12 am

Fantasy rankings update: Eli up, Rivers slides

We've altered our Fantasy Football rankings. You can check out our positional rankings here and our Top 200 list here.

Here are the highlighted changes:

New No. 1 at tight end. Jason Witten jumped Antonio Gates, but it's a very close call. In fact, we've had some serious debate over who should be No. 1 at tight end between these two and Kellen Winslow. I like Gates, personally, and would take him over Witten and Winslow in every draft. Gates is effectively the No. 1 receiver on the Chargers while Witten and Winslow are No. 2s. Gates is also a huge red-zone target that racks up the touchdowns; the others aren't as reliable down there. My esteemed co-worker Jamey Eisenberg would take Winslow first, citing his offense. So, naturally, we put a guy NEITHER of us would take first as our No. 1.

Philip Rivers down. The guy has a torn ACL, usually a nine-month rehab process. I doubt he'll have a chance at being close to 100 percent by training camp, which is nearly six months from today, by the way. Figure Rivers to be ineffective until October -- which makes him a No. 2 Fantasy passer.

Eli Manning up. The guy has played well in the playoffs thanks not only to improved play from his receiving corps (Plax is playing big) but also because of improved decision making. He seemingly gained confidence in that loss to the Patriots in Week 17, and it's propelled him to playing in the Super Bowl. And, it's trickled down to the rest of the Giants. He should carry it into next year. Plus, I really like his receiving corps at 100 percent.

Lions changes: Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald down, T.J. Duckett up. The Lions' offense is expected to be more run oriented next year, which means that Johnson and McDonald -- especially McDonald -- won't be stat mongers next year. In the case of Johnson, his value could go up if Detroit parts ways with Roy Williams, which is under consideration since he'll be a FA after 2008. Duckett is a free agent and may start 2008 as the Lions' starting RB if he re-signs (which he will since he won't start, or get paid, anywhere else).

Vincent Jackson up. He played great this postseason, opening some eyes. Wish he had done that all year. The guy is going to get single coverage with Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates playing alongside him. Still a big-size, big-jump guy.

But the most interesting dilemma we've got is who we'd take first between LT and Brady, and if LT is even the No. 1 runner. Tomlinson has never played 19 games (actually, more like 17 1/2 games) in a 12-month span, and he enters the offseason with a sprained left MCL. The injury doesn't really worry us, assuming it really is just a sprain (I bet it's worse). Furthermore, Tomlinson is 29 and heading into his eighth NFL season. Not this year, but NEXT year is when running backs start to slow down. I don't know if LT would qualify, since the elite runners usually push through their eighth, ninth and 10th full seasons with flying colors, and LT is an elite player. All that said, the case for dropping Tomlinson isn't strong ... for now. We did move Brady to No. 2 overall on the Top 200.

Thoughts? Comments? Random statements? Let's chat. Post a message below and I'll respond.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com