Chargers May Place the Franchise Tag on RB Sproles

The Chargers and their running back situation for 2009 very well may come to a head as soon as this week. Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune talks about the team possibly shocking the league by putting the franchise tag on upcoming free agent RB Darren Sproles. He’s due to hit the open market on February 26th. If he does, he could go the way of Michael Turner, who left via free agency last season and went on for a monster year with the Falcons.

The other thing it would do is put the future of LaDainian Tomlinson with the Chargers in doubt. There has been plenty of back and forth between L.T. and GM A.J. Smith that seems to have added even more tension to the situation. Here’s the story from today’s Union-Tribune:

A renegotiated contract for LaDainian Tomlinson and possible franchise tag for Darren Sproles are among the topics the Chargers’decision-makers are mulling this week. The team’s brass has essentially just begun the process of deciding the parameters of a new deal for Tomlinson and how to proceed with Sproles. Almost everything else of consequence that will take place this offseason piggybacks off the decisions regarding the two running backs. Tomlinson is due to make $6.725 million in 2009 with a cap number of $8.8 million. With numerous other players to try to sign to long-term deals, the team cannot afford to keep Tomlinson at that price.

The Tomlinson situation likely will come to a resolution at the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins next week in Indianapolis. There, the team and Tomlinson’s agent will be able to have face-to-face discussion on a restructured deal. That is also likely the first time the team will have in-depth talks with Sproles’ agent about a long-term contract. Sproles has said he would like to remain a Charger but will at least test the free-agent market. .

The team also is considering putting the franchise tag on Sproles, which would guarantee him $6.62 million in 2009 and would, depending on whether the team places the exclusive or non-exclusive tag on him, prevent him from negotiating with other teams or give the Chargers two first-round draft picks if he signs with another team. It is not believed a team would pony up two first-round picks to sign Sproles, so a franchise tag virtually assures Sproles will be a Charger in ’09.

The team would be smart to franchise Sproles, even if they have visions of keeping Sproles and L.T. together on the same roster this upcoming season.

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